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Will Bernie Sanders Demand a Hand-Count of Ballots in NH?

Updated on February 12, 2020
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Ralph Lopez majored in economics and political science at Yale University. He has been published in the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun.

After chaotic Iowa caucuses in which the app that reported the results malfunctioned, Bernie Sanders supporters are looking to New Hampshire next. But few know there is an additional safeguard against any election hijinks in NH state law. For presidential primaries, any candidate receiving at least 9 percent of the vote can petition for a recount.

The malfunctioning app turned out to have been created by former Clinton staffers whose current customers include Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The NH statute reads:

"Any person receiving at least 9 percent of the votes cast in any party's presidential primary may apply for a recount. The application shall be made in writing to the secretary of state and shall be submitted no later than the Friday after the primary for a recount of all ballots cast for such nomination. Each candidate requesting a recount shall pay the secretary of state fees as provided in RSA 660:2. A candidate having requested a recount pursuant to this paragraph may, no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Monday after the primary election, withdraw the request and receive a refund of any fees paid." 2014 New Hampshire, Revised Statutes, Title LXIII, Section 660:7

Sanders, the front-runner in polls, is sure to receive more than 9 percent of the vote.

After 2016, it was discovered that in NH districts where the paper ballots were counted by the state's prevalent AccuVote OS vote-counting machine, Sanders won by about 60% to Hillary Clinton's 38%. But in the hundreds of widespread districts where votes on the hand-marked paper ballots were counted by hand, Sanders won by significantly more, about 70% to 29%, which would have been a history-making super-landslide.

Barring some compelling demographic explanation, the possibility must be admitted that there was machine hacking to minimize Sanders' victory, to keep it from turning from a mere landslide into a humiliating rout for Clinton in the nation's first primary.

But NH Secretary of State William Gardner suggested in an interview with the Keene Sentinel recently that "recount" means hand recount. Asked about a controversy in which a town clerk took it upon herself to do additional audits on the 2016 primaries, Gardner said: "We do our recounts by hand."

In the 2016 Wisconsin recount between Trump and Clinton, initiated by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, many counties merely ran the paper ballots a second time through the vote-counting machines, the results of which were being disputed in the first place. Election integrity activists contend that recount means a hand recount of the votes on the paper ballots, in case a machine's vote-counting software has been hacked.

Sanders has taken a solid nearly double-digit lead over Buttigieg in NH, in one poll 12 points over "Mayor Pete." Sanders' campaign manager is Faiz Shakir (@fshakir), who was formerly employed by the Podesta Group.

In 2006 the type of vote-counting machine still in use in NH, the Premier Election Solutions AccuVote OS, was the subject of a demonstration in the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy, in which a vote-counting machine was easily hacked to fraudulently subtract votes from one candidate while adding them to another.


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