New Hampshire moderators take an oath to protect the integrity of an election, to assure the public their votes were counted and recorded accurately. Derry Moderator Mary Till stood by that oath in the September state primary.
Exercising substantial authority given New Hampshire moderators under RSA 659:60, Till, adhering to all election rules, chose to conduct a random hand-count audit, on election night, to check the accuracy of the primary’s computer results.
About 750 ballots were counted. The audit took approximately one hour. Till said she had five teams, plus two sorters. The cost to Derry residents: virtually nothing. All volunteered their time, since the town clerk had no budget to pay them.
In a 2010 memo to the town of Swanzey, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan wrote: “the moderator at his or her discretion may count any race on the ballot by hand if, for a specific reason, they feel a need to verify the result of the electronic ballot counting device.”
Yet, the state of New Hampshire continues to discourage moderators from doing such commonsense checks, on election night, when errors can be found and most often corrected.
Counting votes in public assures the transparency essential for election integrity. Lack of transparency allows those whose design is tampering with the votes an opportunity to do so without detection. Till said she felt it her responsibility to “check to make sure Derry machines were working properly.”
Without an observable vote count, and no means of verification, voters must trust the computer results. By conducting an audit, Till exercised her right and duty to prove to voters that the computer tally was, in fact, accurate. Although a random sampling, thanks to her, it helped assure Derry voters that the precinct machine audited was working properly.
New Hampshire moderators in computer-count communities need to follow her lead. The public needs to understand the vulnerabilities of a concealed computer vote-counting process and encourage and support its moderators’ efforts to provide actual evidence of an honest election.