Is a hand recount of 2020 election results in Windham, New Hampshire, proof of election fraud by "Dominion Voting Machines"? No, that's not true: The results changed markedly in the recount, but it's unclear why. The original report, the recount or both may have been made in error. The mere fact of a discrepancy is not evidence of fraud, which involves intent to deceive. The New Hampshire attorney general's office has been asked to review the election and has requested information from officials in Windham. Significantly, there have been no allegations of wrongdoing or fraud, and the results of the recount did not change the outcome of the election. It is fair to say, however, that questions about the vote remain.
The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by The Gateway Pundit on February 10, 2021. The article, which was titled "HUGE DEVELOPMENT: Hand Recount Finds Dominion Owned Voting Machines Shorted EVERY REPUBLICAN Candidate in Windham, New Hampshire, 300 Votes!", opened:
Here we go.
More proof of election fraud by Dominion Voting Machines.
A recent hand recount in the Rockingham District 7 NH House Race in Windham, New Hampshire, found that the Dominion-owned voting machines shorted EVERY REPUBLICAN by roughly 300 votes.
Users on social media saw this at the time of writing:
Let's start at the beginning.
On November 3, 2020, Windham -- like cities and towns across the country -- held a general election. In addition to other races, voters cast their ballots for the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Windham has four representatives.
All four Republican candidates received more votes than the four Democratic candidates. The Democrat with the most votes, Kristi St. Laurent, requested a recount, and that is where the situation gets complicated.
The results changed markedly in the recount. Specifically, as The Gateway Pundit article asserts, the four Republican candidates gained roughly 300 votes, each, in the recount. Three Democrats picked up between 18-28 votes, each, while St. Laurent wound up losing close to 100 votes.
The discrepancy between the original vote tally and the recount raised eyebrows.
No Allegation of Wrongdoing or Fraud
St. Laurent appealed to the state Ballot Law Commission, which has jurisdiction over voting machine selection. She wrote:
As you know, the results as reported in this race seem to be unique. The hand-count results from the recount were inconsistent with the results reported from the machine count that occurred on Election Day to an extent and in a manner that raise significant questions of potentially systemic import.
The Ballot Law Commission held a hearing on her appeal. It reported:
At the hearing, various officials of the town, and representatives of the Secretary of State's Office, testified as to the conduct of the election and the recount, with no witness alleging fraud or intentional misconduct on the part of anyone, but agreeing that the degree of variance from the machine count to the hand count was unusual.
The commission voted to uphold the results of the recount, as well as to request that the New Hampshire attorney general's office look into exactly what happened. Its decision read, in part:
Our authority over recounts is limited to a review of the recount of votes, and, in cases such as this, to determine if ballots not included in the count should have been included. In performing this duty, and reviewing the facts, especially in a matter in which there was no allegation of wrong-doing or fraud, the Commission finds there was no evidence on which to question the outcome of the recount, and there were no votes not counted which could change the result. Therefore, the results of the recount are upheld. Further, as noted, the Commission asks that the Attorney General be requested to review the operation of the voting machines in Windham, and conduct a general review of the conduct of the election, to see if it can determine the reasons for the unusual variation between the machine and hand counts.
Similarly, Windham has asked that the attorney general's office look into the election results. In a letter to that office, dated November 19, 2020, the town's attorney summarized the results of the recount and described the "magnitude of error (in the vicinity of 6%)" as "shocking." The letter read:
Accordingly, the Windham Board of Selectmen has directed me to write your office requesting that you take steps to 'investigate' the results. The Selectmen are anxious to determine how such a discrepancy could occur. While it is possible that the original Town report could have been in error, there is also the possibility that the Secretary of State recount could have been off. Because of the method used for the recount, the Town was not informed of the total ballots counted or the number of voters who may not have voted for a candidate (i.e. 'blanks'). This makes it impossible to determine if the 'recount' disclosed more votes than ballots distributed to voters, or whether votes determined to the 'blanks' in the machine tallies were determined by in-person examinations to be actual votes.
In other words, the original report, the recount or both may have been made in error. We don't know. But we do know the mere fact of a discrepancy is not evidence of fraud, which involves intent.
A Request for Review
Lead Stories reached out to the New Hampshire attorney general's office to ask about the status of the request for a review. In response, a spokeswoman sent a copy of a five-page memo, dated "January 5, 2020," that was sent from that office to Windham's attorney. (The 2020 date is an apparent typo.) You can read the memo here: Windham.pdf.
It made several points. One, the memo provided details on the AccuVote devices used in New Hampshire elections. They have been used in the state for more than 25 years and are approved by the Ballot Law Commission. The memo read:
The device was originally manufactured by Unisys, then by Global Elections Systems, Inc., which are no longer in business. The device being used in New Hampshire is no longer being manufactured. Dominion owns the intellectual property of the AccuVote and its related elections management system, but does not manufacture the device.
This first point speaks to the claim made by The Gateway Pundit that "Dominion-owned Voting Machines" were involved in alleged fraud. (As a quick aside, it's worth noting that the original headline on the article read: "HUGE DEVELOPMENT: Hand Recount Finds Dominion Voting Machines Shorted EVERY REPUBLICAN in Windham, New Hampshire, 300 Votes!" The Gateway Pundit later updated its headline to say "Dominion-owned" machines.)
Lead Stories reached out to Dominion Voting Systems to ask whether the description in the memo from the attorney general's office of its involvement was correct. It is, according to a company spokesperson. Dominion owns the intellectual property of the AccuVote device, but does not make it. In an email, dated February 12, 2021, the spokesperson added:
Dominion Voting Systems has put the publisher of the Gateway Pundit on legal notice for the platform's repeated efforts to spread false claims and factually incorrect allegations about the company and its systems. This latest claim again falsely states that Dominion machines have been 'caught' in fraudulent election activity, and is easily disproven by a quick fact check of publicly available information.
Two, the memo from the attorney general's office defended the integrity of the state's elections. It read:
After the 2020 General Election, New Hampshire conducted 16 recounts of election night results. A recount is done entirely by people, assigned by the Secretary of State, who count each ballot by hand. Recounts provide the opportunity to compare the ballot counting devices' results to carefully conducted recounts of each ballot by teams of people. The Secretary of State does not use a ballot counting device at the recounts. Decades of recount results confirm the accuracy and reliability of the ballot counting devices in use at the 2020 General Election. And, the 2020 General Election recounts were no different.
And, three, the memo asked for a number of items from election officials in Windham, including information on how officials managed ballot counting devices ahead of the election and on Election Day and a description of the original counting process. It also asked that officials preserve the memory cards programmed for the November 2020 election.
According to this timeline, the town responded to the request from the attorney general's office. Lead Stories reached back out to that office, via email and phone, to ask about the status of the request. We did not receive a response as of the first publication date of this fact-check.
Yes, a shift of that magnitude is unusual. Our data suggests that recounts typically cause a candidate's vote total to shift by a fraction of one percent. The shifts in this Windham race are ten times what we would normally expect from a recount. Note that this is based on our analysis of statewide elections and we don't have the numbers for recounts of similarly-sized local races.
It is fair to say, then, that something atypical happened in Windham. Although the results of the recount did not change the outcome of the election, the discrepancy between the original tally and the recount raises questions that have not yet been answered. The article published by The Gateway Pundit assumes, without evidence, that fraud is the answer to those questions, but the fact of a discrepancy does not prove fraud. It does, however, merit further investigation.