New Hampshire Democrats have abandoned their legal challenges in the Manchester Ward 6 recount, ending their bid to keep the candidate who received the most votes from taking the seat.
Democratic attorney Bill Christie informed his Republican counterparts Sunday night that his clients, Ward 6 candidate Maxine Mosley and Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) would not be going forward with their appeal to the Ballot Law Commission as planned.
“It appears that the Manchester Ward 6 race is over,” GOP attorney Richard J. Lehmann told NHJournal. But not before putting Granite State Democrats in the politically problematic position of trying to prevent lawfully-cast votes from being counted and echoing the “election denial” arguments of Donald Trump.
The battle began when the recount of incumbent Republican Larry Gagne’s narrow 23-vote victory resulted in a one-vote-margin win for Mosley. Republicans immediately began arguing the numbers suggested a stack of ballots were missed during the recount.
After comparing the count in the House race to the results of an audit of the votes in that ward in the governor’s race, Secretary of State Dave Scanlan agreed, announcing he was going to reopen the recount.
“The total number of ballots cast and counted for the office of governor in this district is greater than the total accounted for so far for the [Gagne v. Mosley] race. This indicates some ballots have not yet been counted in the recount,” Scanlan said in a statement. “Reconciliation revealed there is insufficient certainty that all ballots cast in that race have been recounted, necessitating further counting.”
Democrats responded by asking a judge to issue an order permanently banning the secretary of state from reopening the recount. They also accused Scanlan and the GOP of wanting “to conduct recount after recount until they achieve their desired result.”
Merrimack Superior Court Judge Amy L. Ignatius ruled against the Democrats and said the recount could continue.
“A review of the recount tabulation is required to ensure the expressed will of the Manchester Ward 6 voters is heard and the candidate with the most votes is seated as their State Representative,” Ignatius wrote.
The result, as Republicans predicted, was a 26-vote Gagne victory. Democrats announced plans to appeal that outcome before the Ballot Law Committee, a decision they reversed Sunday night.
One reason, Republican sources said, was that there were not enough questionable ballots to challenge that could overcome Gagne’s 26-vote margin. Another reason was the terrible optics Democrats suffered as the “election denier” party.
“It’s a shame Democrats are fighting so hard to keep votes from being counted instead of working harder on policies that would earn them more votes,” said Manchester Republican Ross Berry. “Our position from the beginning has been simple: ‘Count. Every. Vote.’ The Democrats’ response? ‘No.'”
“This lawsuit by the Democrats really is voter suppression,” added former Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien.
Elected officials like Soucy and party officials like state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley loudly and publicly fought to keep the secretary of state from conducting a complete recount, with Buckley echoing rhetoric often heard from defenders of Trump’s 2020 election denialism.
After the judge ruled against the Democrats, for example, Buckley suggested — without evidence– the GOP may have tampered with the ballots during the recount.
“Here’s the photo taken by [WMUR reporter Adam] Sexton of Repubs in a separate room with all of the ward 6 ballots the day after the recount,” Buckley tweeted. “Scanlan says we can’t rely on his ability to oversee the bipartisan recount but we can trust this gang? Were the ballots secure? Are they now?”
In fact, the ballot count matched the numbers from the audit. Buckley had also repeatedly suggested a full accounting of the votes was an attempt to steal the election.
“Somebody ought to give Buckley Mike Lindell’s phone number,” O’Brien quipped in response.