Bedford town officials, including the Town Clerk and Town Moderator, were still a “no comment” on Monday about newly-uncovered mishandled ballots from the November 2020 election. But the former Moderator — who is also behind the original “secrecy” strategy — is speaking out, insisting he and the other town election officials have “no obligation” to be transparent.

In an email to NHJournal, assistant Town Moderator Brian Shaughnessy shrugged off the idea that there is news in these newfound ballots.

“Your present inquiry is apparently related to 20 plus or so counted ballots which were inadvertently not removed from a ballot box before that box was placed into storage,” Shaughnessy wrote. “Bedford has multiple ballot boxes and not all of them are used in every election, so the ballots were not discovered until that particular box was transported to the school gym for the 2021 special election.

“The ballots found in the box in September 2021 were cast ballots which were counted and included in the official report for the 2020 general election. None of these ballots would alter the results of any of the elections. So, absent some evil motive for these errors that escapes any logic, I do not see how this is a story at all,” Shaughnessy wrote.

And, Shaughnessy added, there is no duty to publicly disclose the existence of the ballots to the public or to the town council.

“No one has pointed to any law, rule,  or other legal authority that states that the Moderator or Town Clerk, also elected officials, had an obligation to inform anyone other than the Secretary of State’s office.”

The story began when 190 absentee ballots in the November 2020 general election were mistakenly placed among counted ballots and weren’t found until five days later. Town election officials, at the suggestion of Shaughnessy, kept their existence secret from town councilors and the general public — including the 190 disenfranchised voters. NHJournal first broke the story on October 30.

Since then, the second stack of ballots described by Shaughnessy was found. Town officials like Town Clerk Sally Kellar and Town Moderator William Klein refused to answer questions on Monday and still haven’t made a public statement.

While Bedford Democrats have been silent on this story, Republicans are demanding an investigation into the ballot mishandling and — more importantly, they say — town officials’ attempts to keep the events secret.

“The integrity of our elections, and the reliable processing of ballots, is critical to maintaining the allegiance of citizens to our system of government,” Bedford GOP chairman Bart Fromuth said in a statement. “It is of utmost importance that we respect the efforts of these 190 voters to participate in the election. They and the public deserve a thorough investigation and determination of why their votes were not counted and were kept secret for nearly a year.”

And on Monday, Republican National Committeeman Chris Ager called the behavior of officials like Kellar, Klein, and Shaughnessy “unconscionable.”

“Voters absolutely deserve to know that their vote counts, no matter who it is for, and hiding these discrepancies for almost a full year raises concerning questions,” Ager said. “Citizens across New Hampshire desperately want to know that 100 percent of the ballots cast in our elections are secure, fair, and accurate. Transparency is critical.”