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By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
The attorney general’s office is investigating how the town of Effingham’s ballots disappeared before voting took place on snowy March 13 election day.
The 2018 ballots somehow went missing before voting and Town Moderator Susan Slack was told by the Secretary of State’s Office how to proceed, according to Town Clerk Deanna Amaral. Photocopies of the sample ballots were used by voters.
“There’s an investigation going on so I can’t speak about it,” Amaral said.
Effingham Police Chief Tim Butts said he hadn’t heard anything about the missing ballots.
Effingham, a town of 1,348 people in Carroll County on the Maine border, has already held a recount in one close election for selectman, but the vote remained the same. Michael Cahalane received 174 votes defeating Lawrence Edwards 164.
Cahalane jokingly referred to it as Effingham’s “ballot-gate” when reached by phone, but he, too, wouldn’t discuss the matter since he was involved personally in the election.
“I was standing outside the school in the blizzard for eight hours so I’m pretty far out of the loop,” Cahalane said.
Ballot voting took place on Tuesday, March 13 at the Effingham Elementary School, and the town meeting portion was held on Saturday, March 17.
Cahalane said he wanted to stay out of it, adding he is as anxious as anyone else to find out what happened to the 2018 ballots just before the town’s election.
Four House members signed a letter to Secretary of State William Gardner saying many constituents had contacted Carroll 5 representatives “regarding alleged voting process violations.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Lino Avellani, Wakefield; Ed Comeau, Brookfield; Bill Nelson, Brookfield and William Marsh of Wolfeboro.
The letter went on to say: “It has been alleged that the established protocols were not followed and have called into question the validity of the town elections. The people must be assured that their votes were counted properly.”
It concluded by saying they were requesting an investigation.
Secretary of State Gardner said the attorney general’s office is investigating the matter. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Broadhead did not return phone calls.