Above Secretary of State David Scanlan helps explain details about potential new vote counting machines. Paula Tracy photo
By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD, New Hampshire – More than 300 members of the public, elected officials, and clerks from across the state came to Concord Wednesday to learn from three vendors about their ballot machines.
The state’s aging ballot machines made by Accuvote are in need of replacement and the state Ballot Law Commission is hoping to approve no more than two new vendors, said Secretary of State David Scanlan.
Dominion, ES&S and Voting Works were the three vendors making presentations in the Legislative Office Building Wednesday.
Clear Ballot, another vendor backed out.
“The Ballot Law Commission is the authority on whether ballot law devices are approved and decertified. We know the Accuvotes are aging and have reached the end of their functional life. So this is just part of the process of trying to figure out what they will approve as a replacement,” said Scanlan.
“We had a lot of town clerks, we had a lot of legislators, we had a lot of members of the public,” he said.
The three machines were set up in a large room on the second floor of the LOB used primarily by the House Budget Committee and then in separate hearing rooms, representatives for each of the competing vendors gave short sessions on their machines with the benefits they could provide for safe and secure voting here in the Granite State.
“The vendors are essentially giving their sales pitch and they are talking about how the machines will operate, consistent with New Hampshire statutes. Then there is an opportunity for…attendees to run ballots,” he said, “so basically they are kicking the tires,” Scanlan said.
He noted all the machines have already been tested in at least two live elections in a few cities and towns. It started in Ashland, Newington and Woodstock (for the 2022 State Primary and General Elections) and Londonderry, Milford and Winchester for municipal elections.
There were none excluded based on their performance.
Those attending were given the opportunity to make recommendations to the Ballot Law Commission.
It has yet to schedule a vote on what products to certify.
Members of the commission attended the day-long event.
“It would be nice to have them approved so that the towns that are ready (to buy) have them in place for the 2024 election cycle,” Scanlan said.
The decision to use a ballot counting device is made at the local level.
And each community makes their own purchase, rather than the state.
The products now being considered are quite similar to the Accuvote system, he said, and while there would be some training involved, it would not be too much involved in terms of training.
Most voters in New Hampshire now have their votes pass through an Accuvote machine, he said, noting he has heard estimates as high as 90 percent while some small towns don’t use such machines and hand count all ballots.
Supporters of such a hand count were in attendance at the event, particularly in the morning when about 200 people signed up to attend.
The afternoon session had about 100 learning about the devices offered.