A year after the election that swept President Donald Trump out of office and New Hampshire Republicans into power, some 190 ballots cast by Bedford voters remain uncounted, NHJournal has learned.
The misplaced absentee ballots, which were discovered just days after the November 3, 2020 election, were kept secret from Town Council and the voters impacted for a year.
Town officials claim in a letter sent to the disenfranchised voters they kept the blunder secret under orders from the state Attorney General’s office, then headed by AG Gordon MacDonald.
“In reviewing this matter, this Office concludes that these 190 absentee ballots would not have impacted the outcome of any of the races on the ballot in Bedford during the 2020 general election,” Myles Matteson of the Attorney General’s office wrote Bedford town officials in a letter dated October 21, 2021. A copy of that letter is being sent to the 190 or so residents who cast votes last November by Bedford Town Clerk Sally Kellar and Town Moderator William Klein.
Those ballots remain unopened and uncounted.
According to Matteson, the existence of the uncast absentee ballots was discovered soon after the election.
“Deputy Clerk [Gloria] Mac Vane was reconciling the number of ballots distributed with the number of ballots cast. During this process, she discovered that there was a difference of approximately 190 fewer ballots cast than the number distributed. The amount of absentee ballots recorded received was 7,917. The total number of absentee ballots recorded cast was 7,727,” Matteson wrote.
“On November 8, 2020, Deputy Clerk MacVane attributed the cause of this discrepancy to a mistake made during the processing of absentee ballots on election day [sic].”
Because the ballots were kept secret, they were also kept out of the Bedford recount in the state Senate District 9 race between then-incumbent Jeanne Dietsch and newly-elected Republican Denise Ricciardi. That recount was held on November 1o, after the uncast ballots were discovered.
Dietsch called off the recount when the results began to benefit Ricciardi. Ricciardi’s official victory as reported by the Secretary of State’s office was 17,920 to 17,511, but that doesn’t include changes discovered in the uncompleted recount.
Why weren’t the ballots simply counted on November 8? Why was their existence kept secret? Why weren’t they used in the recount?
Kellar and Klein point the finger at the Secretary of State and Attorney General.
“When we discovered [the uncast ballots], we immediately reported it to the New Hampshire Secretary of State,” they wrote in their letter to the impacted Bedford voters. “We were advised to keep these ballots secure and to wait further instructions before taking any further action. The following week, we were informed that the matter had been referred to the NH Attorney General’s office for investigation. The Attorney General requested some information from us and we submitted it on November 19, 2020.
“We were told not to discuss this with anyone, not even the town council because it was a pending investigation,” Kellar and Klein said.
Officials in the AG’s office say they never instructed the town to keep the incident secret from either the Town Council or the general public.
This story is unfolding with the ongoing debate over the legitimacy of the 2020 election in the background. Political insiders with knowledge of the events speculate that decisions made by the Attorney General’s Office may have been influenced by events in Windham when voting machine error caused a significant error in the first results reported. Supporters of Trump’s frequently-repeated (and frequently debunked) claims the election was stolen due to widespread election fraud have used the Windham incident to support their calls for a statewide election audit in New Hampshire.
“The Attorney General’s Office saw this unfolding and they didn’t want to add fuel to the fire,” one source suggested.
MacDonald is currently serving as Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
NOTE: This story has been updated to include new information revealed by the Attorney General’s office, and later confirmed by town officials.