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NH POLITICS

Companies pitch new voting machines for N.H., but some think they shouldn’t be used at all

A few people held signs protesting the machines outside of the Legislative Office Building where the demonstrations were taking place

The state is considering three voting machines from Dominion, Election Systems & Software, and VotingWorks.Amanda Gokee/Globe Staff

CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire is in the market for new voting machines to replace its aging fleet of AccuVote devices. Earlier this week, three companies made their pitch to election workers, state lawmakers, and members of the public.

Also in the large audience were a handful of vocal people who don’t believe voting machines should be used at all.

A few people held signs protesting the machines outside of the Legislative Office Building where the demonstrations were taking place, including Dave Strasser whose sign read “Hand count our ballots.”

Another sign simply read, “Ban voting machines.”

Voting machines have been the target of certain election conspiracies, falsely claiming that they are connected to the internet or that the equipment was manipulated to steal the 2020 election.

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A few anti-voting machine protesters gathered outside the Legislative Office Building ahead of a demonstration as the state considers which machines to approve.Amanda Gokee/Globe Staff

The chair of the Ballot Law Commission, Bradford Cook, told an overflowing room of attendees on Wednesday the commission will decide which devices to approve in the fall. “Nobody has forced any town or city to use [these machines],” he said, adding that those who want to debate it can do so with their local government.

During one of Dominion’s presentations, a man asked whether parts from China were used in the voting devices, and left the session after Jeff Silvestro, the president of LHS Associates, the vendor offering machines from Dominion, responded that there were.

A town moderator intervened when an attendee started questioning the constitutionality of the machines.

“Objection. That is beyond the scope of this session,” said Chris Regan, the town moderator of Durham.

“The questions that were being asked were not pertinent to the decision about whether this is a particularly good machine,” Regan told the Globe in an interview after the demonstration. He said those are questions for the Secretary and State and Legislature, not a voting machine vendor.

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Regan said it wasn’t surprising that the demonstration drew those who are critical of voting machines; he’s used to having observers come to watch local elections he presides over since he started working the polls in 2006. “You deal with each situation as it comes up,” he said.

What he’s looking for in a machine? Regan said he wanted to see how easily he could read the machine’s screen to examine a write-in vote, for example. “What they’re not realizing is that we have put in probably about 14 or 16 hours that day before we get to this process. And there’s also a limitation of the human body,” he said.

Jeff Silvestro, president of Dominion, demonstrated how his company’s machine works, claiming it’s the most similar to the state’s current AccuVote machines that are around 30 years old.Amanda Gokee/Globe Staff

Attendees submitted feedback about how easy the machines were to use and transport, how much privacy each offered, and the quality of printed results, among other topics. The feedback will be presented to the Ballot Law Commission as it makes a decision.

Here’s what each company pitched. All three touted their security features, like two-factor authentication, and how easy their machines are to use. None of the machines are connected to the internet.

Dominion

  • Highlighted the company’s home-court advantage. It is based in Salem, N.H., with 50 percent of its employees in the state.
  • “We’ve had technicians get stranded on the side of the highway get picked up by state police officers in primitive polling places to help clerks and moderators resolve issues,” Silvestro said. “That’s our commitment to the state.”
  • Operates in five other states, according to Silvestro.
  • Claims to be the machines that are most similar to current AccuVote machines, to ease the transition to a new machine.
  • $6,000 to buy a machine, includes service for a year, delivery, and testing.
  • $3,500 to rent a machine for a single election.
  • Proprietary software.
  • It takes the machine five seconds to process a ballot.

Election Systems & Software

  • Largest voting machine company in the country, and claims to be operating in 45 states across the country with a strong presence in New England.
  • Based in Omaha, Neb.
  • Has been around for about 45 years.
  • 500-employee company, with about half in Nebraska and the other half in the field.
  • Technicians throughout New England.
  • “We position ourselves all around every state to make sure we’re there if you need us there,” said Joe Passarella, a regional sales manager.
  • $6,900 for the scanner and box plus an annual service fee ranging from $250 to $300.
  • Proprietary software.
  • It takes the machine four seconds to process a ballot.

VotingWorks

  • Non-profit formed in 2019, newer company and smaller team that includes ex-state and -local election officials.
  • Headquartered in San Francisco.
  • Operates in 14 jurisdictions in Mississippi.
  • Proposes new voting equipment to help repair the trust some have lost in the Democratic process. “The voting equipment we’ve been using today didn’t get us into this crisis, but it’s also not the voting equipment that’s going to get us out,” said Ben Adida, cofounder and executive director.
  • Promises simple, secure, and transparent equipment.
  • Prints results on an 11.5 x 8 inch page.
  • Help desk promises no more than a two-hour wait on questions or to send a technician on-site.
  • $7,000 for equipment plus $500 per year for maintenance and software. An additional $500 for programming the machine for an election.
  • Open source code.
  • It takes less than four seconds to process a ballot.

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