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Bill requiring election audits passes the N.H. House

Senate Bill 157 requires the Secretary of State to randomly select eight towns or city wards to audit per election. The audits would be open to the public.

Voters mark their ballots before using the Dominion Voting machines in Milford, N.H.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

CONCORD, N.H. – Updating election laws often involves a heated partisan fight, but an effort to make election audits a permanent practice in New Hampshire elections garnered bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 157 quietly and unanimously passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives Thursday morning with no debate.

It would make election audits a normal procedure occurring after every state and federal election moving forward. The bill requires the Secretary of State to randomly select eight towns or city wards to audit per election. The audits would be open to the public.

Election audits allow states to verify the accuracy and performance of voting equipment and vote counting machines. In practice, it’s a partial recount of results that takes a random sample of paper ballots and checks it against the initial results to make sure the results are accurate.

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Most states require some form of a post-election audit but New Hampshire has been an exception as one of only nine states without such a policy on its books, according to the nonprofit Movement Advancement Project. The nonprofit considers election audits a positive policy that promotes democracy.

Post-election audits are also promoted by The Brennan Center, a public policy institute that advocates for progressive public policy positions. The Center calls the audits “a key component of securing elections against foreign interference” that can help restore public confidence in elections.

The House made some changes to the Senate’s version of the bill: making the audit mandatory, expanding it to include all voting devices and not just AccuVote devices, doubling the number of audits from four to eight, and requiring that 100 ballots be compared to digital images. It would also include the presidential primary in races to be audited.

In the last election, New Hampshire conducted a pilot election audit program that checked four locations and found no major discrepancies.

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“We’re hoping the audit bill will restore the public’s confidence in both hand counts and machine counts in ballots,” said Liz Tentarelli, president of the League of Women Voters. “We had a lot of people after 2020 who simply doubted the counts. An audit may help those people have faith again in the process.”

The Senate will have an opportunity to weigh in on the changes made by the House before it would proceed to the governor’s desk.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.