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Windham’s Election Woes Continue, Town Holds Snap Reconciliation

Windham’s streak of questionable election conduct continues. On Tuesday, officials held a vote reconciliation without informing the New Hampshire secretary of state or the public to double-check the totals from the March 12 town elections.

Town residents began contacting NHJournal Tuesday morning when a posting appeared claiming to be a “legal notice” that the town of Windham “will perform an election reconciliation [sic] the March 12, 2024 Election.”

“The public is encouraged to observe this process,” the notice added. To do that, several residents groused, they would have to know about it in advance.

Windham’s municipal elections were already under stress after both the Town Clerk Nicole Merrill and Deputy Town Clerk Hannah Davis announced two weeks before they were vacating their posts as of Election Day, March 12. Merrill cited health concerns for her departure, and Davis blamed pressure and a lack of support from superiors as driving her exit.

NHJournal contacted the town clerk’s office Tuesday and was told the decision to hold the reconciliation was made the night before. A source in the Secretary of State’s office, which oversees the state’s election, said they were unaware a reconciliation was being conducted.

The last election official left in town, Town Moderator Peter Griffin, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Vote reconciliations are typically conducted immediately after election polls close, votes are counted, and official results are reported. Officials compare votes, voters, and ballots cast to ensure accurate totals are reported.

Tom Murray, co-founder of the far-right Government Integrity Project, says there are concerns about Windham’s handling of the election. He says the results reported on election night were inaccurate, for example.

“The school moderator, Betty Dunn, who was on the ballot seeking reelection, was handling ballots that she appears on as a candidate during election night,” Murray said. He also claimed Dunn “has been involved in multiple unofficial recount/reconciliation efforts outside of the public.” Plus, he pointed out that the town’s notice for the reconciliation “did not meet the 24-hour requirement.”

And, Murray said, he will be asking for a recount of the March 12 election.

Murray told NHJournal that nobody is arguing that any election’s outcome will be changed. Instead, he said, it’s time for the town to finally admit—after five troubled election cycles in a row—that there’s a fundamental problem with its elections.

“It’s just incompetence,” Murray said. “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

Perhaps unrelated, Windham’s Board of Selectmen is meeting Wednesday evening in a non-public session. The board’s meeting notice cites RSA 91-A:3 II (a) as the legal justification for the non-public meeting. That section of the state’s Right to Know law allows public bodies to meet behind closed doors to discuss “the dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her.”

Windham is no stranger to election issues. Unusual results in the 2020 election fed into national election conspiracies, and the state issued multiple warnings, including a rebuke for sloppy practices in the 2022 state primary.

When Windham became part of former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election being stolen, an expansive and controversial audit of the Windham ballots found human error to blame. The 2020 audit report stated several hundred absentee ballots had been machine-folded as part of the mailing process. “That folding machine, leased by the town for other purposes, did not fold ballots along the score lines between vote targets, where the ballots were designed to be folded,” according to the audit. “Instead, it often folded ballots through vote targets in the state representative contest, which the scanners interpreted as vote attempts a substantial fraction of the time.”

Windham got in trouble again after the 2022 September state-wide primary when numerous errors by election day officials and corner-cutting on standard election procedure meant the primary election totals could not be reconciled on the night of the election, according to a letter from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

And in January, Windham was required to conduct the First in the Nation presidential primary in the town under the watchful eye of two outside observers, per instructions from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office.

“It was the second time we had to have an observer for our elections,” Murray sighed. “We’re on our way to a third.”

Skeptical About NH’s Election Integrity? NHSOS Scanlan Has A Solution.

During the First Congressional District debate on the Jack Heath radio show Tuesday, Republican Karoline Leavitt flatly said she did not trust the results of the 2020 elections, nationally or here in New Hampshire.

“I continue to be the only candidate in this race to say the 2020 election was absolutely stolen and there is no way Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes. That is a preposterous claim.”

And, Leavitt later added, the reason the state has Republican control at the state level but an entirely Democratic federal delegation “is because of our poor election integrity laws at the state level. We allow non-citizens of our state to vote in our elections.”

Most Granite Staters don’t agree with Leavitt’s claims regarding the 2020 election — 84 percent told the UNH Survey Center poll in July they are confident in the election process — but New Hampshire’s Secretary of State David Scanlan says there is a simple way for people skeptical about New Hampshire’s voting system to lay their concerns to rest.

“I would suggest people who are expressing doubts volunteer as poll workers,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan and his elections team are in the midst of a massive training effort to get 1,200 to 1,500 New Hampshire elections officials ready for the coming voting season. The primary vote is set for Sept. 13, and the midterms follow in November.

Asked by NH Journal about political candidates currently expressing doubt about the outcome of the 2020 election, Scanlan said the whole voting process is transparent and easy for anyone to observe.

“Any voter or citizen of New Hampshire who has questions about the election process should spend some time observing that process. It’s transparent from start to finish,” Scanlan said. “It’s all public activity done in the open with many checks and balances done at the polling place.”

There has never been any credible evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire, but that has not stopped political candidates like Leavitt, Tim Baxter, and Don Bolduc from questioning the results of the 2020 election.

Baxter’s argument rests on the conspiracy theories laid out in the movie “2,000 Mules.” In fact, none of the First District GOP candidates were willing to say that former President Donald Trump lost the election during the NHJournal debate on August 4.

Bolduc, the frontrunner in the GOP race to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, even signed an open letter this year questioning the 2020 election results.

“The FBI and Supreme Court must act swiftly when election irregularities are surfaced and not ignore them as was done in 2020,” the letter reads in part.

The 2020 election did see some glitches in the Granite State. For example, the months-long controversy in Bedford surrounding the 190 ballots that were never counted resulted in the secretary of state deciding the town will have a state-appointed official to oversee the September primary.

“As a result of the concerns and shortcomings described in this and our prior correspondences, the Attorney General makes a finding that the November 2020 General Election returns from Bedford had significant deficiencies,” Myles Matteson of the state Attorney General’s Election Law Unit wrote to Bedford town officials. “The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, will be appointing an election monitor for the next election, the September 13, 2022, primary election.”

Scanlan wants to avoid any similar problems in the coming elections. The training for election officials will help the local moderators, ballot clerks, and selectmen understand election laws and get up to speed on any changes to the law from the last election.

The 2020 election saw polling stations swamped with absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scanlan said there is unlikely to be a repeat of that issue this year. The training sessions are not mandatory, Scanlan said, but strongly encouraged.

Candidates Debate Abortion, 2020 Election in NH-01 GOP Primary Debate

The five GOP candidates running for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas this fall took to the stage Thursday night, sparring over election integrity, abortion, and foreign policy. 

The crowded conservative field of Karoline Leavitt, Matt Mowers, Gail Huff Brown, Tim Baxter, and Russell Prescott largely agree on the issues.  But that didn’t stop Huff Brown from going on the attack first.

In answering a question on abortion considering the U. S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case, which gives the authority back to states, Huff Brown targeted Leavitt and accused her of not being pro-life. Leavitt has just answered that she supports New Hampshire’s 24-week ban on abortion.

(CREDIT: Alan Glassman)

“You can’t be pro-life and support the law in New Hampshire,” Huff Brown said.

“I am pro-life, and I do support the law in New Hampshire,” Leavitt responded, before turning the tables. “So, what are you?”

Huff Brown declined to answer.

Huff Brown also went after Mowers over voting twice during the 2016 presidential primaries, once in New Hampshire and again later in New Jersey.

“We need to talk about election integrity. We have one person up here who voted twice. That’s not election integrity,” she said.

Mowers hit back, saying an investigation by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella cleared him of any wrongdoing and accused Huff Brown of using Democratic talking points.

“Gail, that’s just silly stuff. I know you’re new to this state, maybe you didn’t know the rules,” Mowers said.

The candidates again disagreed on aid to Ukraine, with Mowers and Prescott coming out in full favor of helping Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion, though both said the money needs to be accounted for.

“We should absolutely support Ukraine, but we need to verify the money is actually going to the crisis,” Prescott said.

Leavitt and Baxter opposed sending money to Ukraine. Huff Brown was unclear on her position.

Former President Donald Trump loomed large in the debate, as both Mowers and Leavitt worked for his administration. Mowers touted his position in the State Department while Leavitt made frequent mention of her job in the White House Press Office. Huff Brown also claimed to have worked for Trump. Her husband, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, served as Trump’s ambassador to New Zealand.

None of the candidates were willing to say outright that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Baxter cited the debunked conspiracy theory movie “2,000 Mules” and said all the individual state elections need to be audited. The other candidates said there needs to be a review or audit of the election process. It was Leavitt who went furthest, saying Biden was not elected in 2020.

“The 2020 election was stolen and there is no way Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes,” she said.

The audience at the event hall at the Saint Anselm Institute for Politics was full of campaign aides, as well as supporters, friends, and family of the candidates. Linda Chard came out to support Baxter, saying he has the youth, energy, and ideals needed to win.

“One hundred percent because of his proven, conservative voting record,” Chard said.

Chard would not commit to a second choice if Baxter does not win the primary, saying she is not impressed with the other candidates.

State Sen. Bill Gannon (R-Sandown) came out to support Mowers, who he sees as the best conservative to win.

“Matt is young, energetic, has great ideas, and has experience in Washington,” Gannon said.

Gannon was impressed with the overall slate on the debate stage, saying he could support Huff Brown or Prescott as second choices, but he was disappointed in their answer on the 2020 election.

“I was unhappy that no one would say Joe Biden got the most votes,” Gannon said.

Playing into election conspiracy theories will only hurt Republicans in the fall, Gannon said. While he voted for Trump, Gannon said the former president did lose the election and it is now time for the GOP to move on.

Scott Brown said all the candidates put in a good effort Thursday night.

“They all did really well, everyone up there is qualified,” Brown said.

He took exception, however, to Mowers’ jab at his wife, implying that she recently moved to New Hampshire.

“She’s been a property owner and taxpayer in New Hampshire for 30 years, almost as long as he’s been alive. He’s been here what? Four months?”

Scott Brown said Prescott is his second choice.

“He’s just a good guy,” he said.

The debate can be streamed on NH Journal’s Facebook page 


AG Investigation Finds More Ballots from Bedford Election Fiasco

CONCORD — Two more uncounted absentee ballots from Bedford’s 2020 presidential election were found Wednesday as officials with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office conducted a public count of all the town’s absentee ballots. It is the next step in their ongoing investigation into the mishandled ballots from the affluent community’s 2020 general election.

Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards led the effort to open about a dozen ballot boxes and check every one of the more than 7,000 absentee ballots cast in 2020.

“We reviewed all of the absentee envelopes that were involved in the Bedford general election – which was more than 7,000, almost 8,000 envelopes – to make sure that there were no other ballots that hadn’t been counted,” Edwards said.

Anne Edwards of the NH Attorney General’s office and Bud Fitch with the Secretary of State’s office review uncounted ballots from the 2020 general election in Bedford.

Bedford’s ballot boxes were seized by the Attorney General’s Office late last year after town officials were caught trying to hide a ballot snafu from the public. Close to 190 uncounted absentee ballots were found in the days after the November 2020 election. Town election officials tried to keep news of the uncounted ballots from leaking to the public despite Edwards and her staff advising that the impacted voters ought to be told.

The counting of all absentee ballots took place at the New Hampshire State Archives building in Concord in public view. The process took six hours as officials with the state went through all the absentee ballots and then checked through the known 188 uncounted ballots.

Edwards and her team also examined a second batch of ballots from the same election that were part of the original election count but lost for the subsequent recount.  The ballots were reportedly discovered inside a box for a voting machine used in the September 2021 special election. Again, town officials tried to keep word of those ballots from spreading to Bedford voters. Edwards said the ballots should not have been laying around for close to a year.

“They should have been sealed at the end of the night and they should have been with the rest of the 2020 ballots, but they weren’t,” she said.

Edwards said a full report on what happened in Bedford is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Former Bedford Town Moderator Bill Klein, who was part of the attempt to keep the public in the dark about the ballots, said the town struggled in 2020 dealing with an unprecedented number of absentee ballots cast during the COVID-impacted election. More than 16,000 Bedford voters cast ballots that year, with close to 8,000 absentee ballots.

“Hopefully we’ll never have to go through this again, but honestly maybe things should have been done a little bit differently,” Klein said Wednesday.

The fallout from the ballot errors already cost current Town Moderator Brian Shaughnessy a shot at becoming a circuit court judge. In 2020, Shaughnessy was the assistant town moderator and was the first person to tell Klein to keep quiet about the ballots.

Former Bedford Town Moderator Bill Klein is on hand as state officials review the ballots left uncounted during the 2020 general election.

After being brought before the Town Council, Shaughnessy said one reason he and Klein did not tell anyone in town government about the ballots was to prevent members of the public from finding out.

“If we came to the Town Council while the (Attorney General’s Office) investigation is pending it becomes public knowledge,” Shaughnessy has said.

Shaughnessy’s actions in the drama cost him support from the Executive Council when his judicial nomination was considered last month.

Klein later tried to blame the lack of transparency on the Attorney General’s Office, but that version of events is disputed by Edwards. She took Klein to task in a letter she sent to Klein and other town officials last year.

“Our office never instructed you not to tell anyone of the incident involving the 190 uncounted absentee ballots,” Edwards wrote to Klein.

According to Edwards, Klein was told last summer that he needed to tell the voters whose ballots were not counted what had happened. Klein dragged his feet on the notifications, according to Edwards’s letter.

“Since early June, our Office has been in contact with Bedford election officials regarding possible remediation plans and investigative interviews,” Edwards wrote. “During those conversations, Bedford election officials raised concerns that they did not want to notify voters of the fact that their ballots were not counted. Our Office directed that such a notification was a requirement of any remediation plan.”

Klein was directed to make the notification in August and again in September, and finally he was told by Edwards that he would have to make the notifications after the September special election. Klein finally told voters in October 2021.

Wednesday’s ballot examination in Concord was aimed in part at making sure all the people who had their ballots uncounted were in fact notified by Klein. State officials checked the names on the ballots against the names on the list of people the town had notified. No discrepancies were found during Wednesday’s examination.

Shaughnessy Grilled by Executive Councilors Over Bedford Ballots 

CONCORD — Judicial nominee Brian Shaughnessy recited the Serenity Prayer early in his testimony before the Executive Council on Wednesday, an apt sentiment given the rough day he had answering questions about the Bedford 2020 election snafu.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” he said, explaining his life philosophy. “I try to live by those rules; they guide my life.”

Several executive councilors were less than serene about Shaughnessy’s nomination.

Councilors Cinde Warmington (D-District 2), Janet Stevens (R-District 3), and Dave Wheeler (R-District 5) hammered Shaughnessy over his role in the investigation and coverup of 190 uncast ballots found after the 2020 presidential election. Shaughnessy was a volunteer assistant town moderator during that election, having previously served six years as the town moderator.

The most contentious issue was Shaughnessy’s strategy, which he presented as legal advice, for his fellow election officials to keep the fact they had bungled the absentee ballots secret from both the public and the elected town council.

Shaughnessy told Warmington under questioning he advised Town Clerk Sally Keller and Town Moderator Bill Klein not to talk about the matter until the Attorney General’s Office completed its investigation. However, when asked, Shaughnessy told council members no one from the Attorney General’s Office told him it was a criminal investigation.

That echoes another falsehood Shaughnessy acknowledged during a town hall meeting in November when he confirmed he had told town employees they could face criminal charges themselves — perhaps even felony charges — if they told the public about the election snafu. When questioned by the town council, Shaughnessy was unable to identify any such law.

Shaughnessy’s desire to keep the election fiasco secret was so strong, he told Warmington one reason he wanted Bedford election officials to keep the details from town council members was that it could create records that could be obtained by the public through the state’s Right to Know Law. 

“Anything told to the town council becomes public record,” he said.

Shaughnessy said he thought the investigation would be completed in a matter of weeks, and that would be the appropriate time to make public disclosures.

“We did not imagine it would be 11 months later that the Attorney General’s Office would complete their investigation,” he said. However, he didn’t explain why he and the other election officials continued to remain silent for nearly a year. 

Warmington took Shaughnessy to task for acting as Klein and Kellar’s de facto attorney, not making any public disclosure, and not contacting the town’s attorney about the matter. The ballot problems were not made public until NH Journal broke the story.

“Did you ever have concerns that keeping this secret would undermine Bedford voters’ confidence about elections?” Warmington asked.

Stevens wanted to know why Shaughnessy, or anyone involved, didn’t at least check with the Attorney General’s Office to see if it could make some kind of statement as the weeks and months passed. Shaughnessy conceded that could have been done, but he did not want to cast blame on others.

“Had I been moderator, would it have been different? More than likely, yes. But I’m not going to put that clickbait out there. That serves no purpose,” he said. “I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus.”

According to Anne Edwards of the Attorney General’s Office, its staff “had follow-up conversations with Bedford election officials, during August and September, about the need to provide notification to the 190 voters that their absentee ballots had not been counted during the 2020 General Election.

Bedford election officials raised concerns with this notification and asked not to notify voters,” Edwards said.

Klein testified in Shaughnessy’s favor, saying his assistant town moderator was not part of the problem, nor was he a subject of the investigation.

“He had nothing to do with any of that stuff,” Klein said.

Councilor Joe Kenney (R-District 1) did n0t mention the Bedford issue but instead asked Shaughnessy about tenant law and his resume. Councilor Ted Gatsas (R-District 4), who represents Bedford, asked no questions.

While Shaughnessy fielded some tough questions from the council members, several supporters testified on his behalf, including New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Jim Bassett.

“Having somebody like Brian on the bench would be an incredible asset,” Bassett said.

The council will now likely take up Shaughnessy’s nomination at its April meeting for a vote. In the meantime, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has opened a second investigation into Bedford’s ballots. In September, 10 ballots from 2020 were found in a ballot box, and that information was kept from the public until NH Journal reported the story.

The Attorney General’s Office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the handling of those 10 ballots and has reopened the investigation into the 190 ballots. Shaughnessy said he is not a subject in either investigation.

“I think that with the immediacy of how things happen, I understand how you can make the decisions that are not the best in the moment,” Warmington told Shaughnessy as she wrapped up her questions. “But keeping that secret really did a disservice to the (town) council and the public.”

Sununu Taps Bedford ‘Ballot Fiasco’ Lawyer for Circuit Court Judgeship

“I like Chris Sununu. I’ve donated money to him. But this makes absolutely no sense.”

That was the reaction of a Bedford GOP donor to news the Republican governor has tapped Bedford assistant moderator Brian Shaughnessy to become a Circuit Court judge. 

Shaughnessy made headlines across the state — and critics say, a laughingstock of Bedford — with his mishandling of misplaced ballots during the 2020 election. And, critics note, the town is still under investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office after the revelation of a second batch of mishandled ballots.

NHJournal first broke the news of 190 absentee ballots that were misplaced and left uncounted during the 2020 general election, and the decision of town officials to keep them secret for nearly a year. The town sent a letter to the 190 disenfranchised voters claiming they kept their failure to count all the ballots a secret from the town council and voters at the instruction of the Attorney General’s Office.

That claim turned out to be false. It was in fact Shaughnessy himself who advised his fellow town officials to leave voters and their elected representatives in the dark. The Attorney General’s Office took the unusual step of releasing a letter of its own disputing claims made by Bedford town officials.

“I would never say that an elected official lied,” Attorney General’s general counsel Anne Edwards told NHJournal at the time.“We felt it was important to issue a clarification because we were concerned about the accuracy of some of the statements.”

During a contentious meeting in November, Shaugnessy told the Town Council “we don’t work for you,” in response to their complaints. And he acknowledged the town had sent out false information and that he was the source of the call for secrecy.

“I gave out haphazard legal advice,” Shaughnessy told councilors. “I did not check with the town attorney.”

During that same meeting, he made the false claim that, if Bedford town officials had been transparent about their mishandling of ballots, they “could be subject to criminal penalties, including a felony.”

Under questioning by a town councilor, Shaughnessy conceded he did not know of any law or statute town officials could have violated by telling voters the truth.

Town Manager Rick Sawyer, Town Clerk Sally Kellar, Town Moderator William Klein, and Shaughnessy all narrowly survived a 4-3 vote on a “no-confidence” resolution before the council.

The news of Shaughnessy’s oversight of town elections went from bad to worse when a second batch of mishandled ballots was discovered during the September 2021 special recount but kept secret — again– from town officials until November.

“I don’t know why notification was not made immediately in September,” Bedford Town Manager Rick Sawyer wrote in an email to the town council at the time.

Meanwhile, Shaughnessy continues to insist he has handled the issues properly and that voters and their elected representatives have no right to transparency when it comes to the handling of their ballots by town officials like himself.

“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,” Shaughnessy told NHJournal in November.

Shaughnessy is running for the job of town moderator in the March 8 elections. Despite an effort by several local Republican leaders to recruit another candidate, he is on the ballot unopposed. (At least one candidate, Hanan Wiseman, is mounting a write-in campaign.)

Many of those same Republicans were livid when they learned of Sununu’s choice, though they were reluctant to speak out against the governor on the record.

Off the record, they complain Shaughnessy’s pick will reignite the issue of ballot security and the #StopTheSteal narrative many believe is hurting Republicans with moderate voters.

“Mike Lindell finally leaves town and now he [Sununu] does this?” one Bedford Republican complained.

The GOP donor added, “Ballot security is a big issue with Republican voters, and the [Executive Council] has already been through a lot for Sununu. I’m not sure they’re going to go along with this.”

Sununu declined to respond to a request for comment. Shaughnessy’s nomination goes before the Executive Council next month.


EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported Shaughnessy is being considered for a judgeship on the Superior Court. It is the Circuit Court. NHJournal regrets the error.

Plea Delayed for NH Woman Charged in Election Threats

The New Hampshire woman who threatened a Republican Michigan election official and her daughter over the 2020 election has delayed her plea bargain, again.

Katelyn Jones, 23, was arrested by FBI agents at her mother’s Epping home in December 2021 after she allegedly made threats against Monica Palmer, chairwoman of the Wayne County Michigan Board of Canvassers, and her daughter.

“Hmm, It’d be a shame if something happened to your daughter at school,” Jones allegedly wrote in one of many alarming messages posted to Palmer’s social media accounts. 

Now, Jones is negotiating a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. She was charged with making interstate criminal threats. Court records filed in the United States District Court in Easter Michigan show Jones was supposed to have a plea hearing this week but requested a delay until April based on COVID-19 related setbacks.

Jones was reportedly angry that Palmer voted against certifying the election results that showed President Joe Biden won the election, in effect supporting a possible challenge by President Donald Trump. Jones, an adamant Trump opponent, responded by sending Palmer violent threats, including bloody photographs of nude women along with threats directed at Palmer’s daughter.

“F***ing with our election is TERRORISM, and us Americans clearly don’t tolerate terrorists so yes you should be afraid, your daughter should be afraid, and so should (name of Palmer’s husband,)” Jones allegedly wrote in one of the messages.

Jones is a former Michigan resident but was living at her mother’s New Hampshire home when she made the threats, according to court records.

Palmer voted against certifying the election in heavily African American Wayne County, Michigan. Her actions were seen as part of Trump’s doomed efforts to change the election result that saw him lose the presidency. Despite Palmer’s vote, Michigan eventually certified its election showing that Biden won the state. 

“Racist Terrorist B*tch,” Jones allegedly wrote in one message.

Jones allegedly sent Palmer a photo of a nude, mutilated, dead woman and wrote, “I’d just like you to imagine that’s … your beautiful daughter.”

When confronted at her mother’s house in Epping, Jones reportedly acknowledged to FBI agents that she had sent the messages. Jones said she made the threats and called Palmer a terrorist and a racist, according to court records.

Jones is currently free pending trial on a $10,000 bond. 

Violent political threats are becoming part of the political landscape. Last month, former Allenstown Middle School instructor Daniel Rattigan pleaded guilty to charges he threatened to mutilate state Rep. Keith Ammon (R-New Boston) and sexually assault one of his family members in response to the Republican lawmaker’s support for anti-CRT legislation.

Rattigan called Ammon a racist in the messages and he made numerous obscene and graphic threats against Ammon and a family member.

“I truly hope you get skull f***ed to death you pathetic privileged white [expletive] boi,” Rattigan wrote in one of the messages.

Also in December, Amherst resident Ryder Winegar, 33, was sentenced to 33 months in prison for calling members of Congress and threatening to rape and murder them if they did not support President Donald Trump after the 2020 election.

One message Winegar left, edited to remove extreme profanities, is a typical example:

“Here’s the advice, Donald Trump is your president. If you don’t get behind him, we’re going to hang you until you die … You can come, you can keep being a shill for the Chinese Communist Party. And you know, like the, uh, the Jewish banking cartel, or you can stand up and do the right thing and back America’s president Donald Trump. Support freedom.”

Bedford Official Behind 2020 Ballot Fiasco Running Unopposed for Town Moderator

Despite overseeing the 2020 Bedford ballot fiasco and declaring he does not work for the voters, assistant Town Moderator Brian Shaughnessy is going to ask those same voters to elect him to the Town Moderator’s job.

He is the only candidate filed to appear on the March 8 ballot. 

Bedford’s election officials, including Shaughnessy, current Moderator Bill Kline, and Town Clerk Sally Kellar all came under investigation from the Attorney General’s Office over their mishandling of the 2020 election ballots.

On Shaughnessy’s legal advice, town officials kept the existence of 190 uncounted absentee ballots a secret from both the Town Council and the public for nearly a year. After NHJournal broke the story, town officials tried to blame the Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Secretary of State for leaving voters in the dark. They sent a letter to voters falsely claiming they were ordered to remain silent by state officials.

The Attorney General’s Office responded with a letter contradicting the claim and putting the burden back on Bedford’s town officials.

“Bedford election officials raised concerns with this notification and asked (us) not to notify voters,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards told NHJournal.

Asked if Shaughnessy, Kline, and Kellar were telling the truth, Edwards replied, “I would never say that an elected official lied. We felt it was important to issue a clarification because we were concerned about the accuracy of some of the statements.”

When confronted at a Town Council meeting in October, Shaughnessy admitted he was the person who recommended town officials keep their failure a secret. He also doubled down on the decision.

“We don’t work for you,” Shaughnessy told the council.

Town Moderator Bill Klein acknowledged those voters “were disenfranchised,” but he stood by the decision not to inform them. “We believe we did the right thing,” Klein said. “We report to the secretary of state. We do not report to the Town Council.”

According to the secretary of state’s office, that is untrue.

In November, town officials became aware of more ballot snafus. This time, an unknown number of uncast 2020 ballots were found inside a voting box in September 2021. The ballots were not reported until November, and town officials tried to keep that news from leaking. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office responded by opening an investigation and seizing the town’s ballot boxes.

Town officials are still refusing to confirm the existence of those additional mishandled ballots.

Shaughnessy has previously served as Bedford Town Moderator. Asked about seeking the office amid the current controversies, he remained unrepentant.

“Which recent controversies are you referring to? The AG’s office interviewed me and other Bedford election officials last month in connection with a renewed interest in the 190 absentee ballots, and the ballots found in a ballot container. I do not consider these events controversies, they are facts,” he said in an email to NHJournal.

“I understand that, at the request of the Town Manager, the Town Moderator and Town Clerk met with the Town Attorney who advised that they should not talk about the issues while the AG is investigating, which coincidentally is the same ‘half-cocked legal advice’ I was accused of providing when I appeared before the Town Council.

“I will follow the advice of the Town Attorney and not discuss those matters until the AG has finished its investigation.”

Sources inside state government tell NHJournal Bedford’s handling of the 2020 ballots is still under review by state officials.

Laconia Joins List of NH Towns With Ballot Snafus in 2021

More stray ballots from the 2020 general election have been found during a 2021 election, this time in Laconia. And the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is investigating.

Ballots were reportedly found in a voting machine in September, more than 10 months after the 2020 election. Deputy General Counsel Myles Matteson with Attorney General’s Office said the ballots weren’t reported to his office until this month. Matteson said Wednesday he is unsure why the city took almost three months to report them.

“We don’t have further information to share on that at this point but our investigation is ongoing,” Matteson said.

Laconia officials are not talking. City Clerk Cheryl Hebert, City Manager Scott Myers, and Mayor Andrew Hosmer all declined to respond to requests for comment from New Hampshire Journal on Wednesday.

According to the Concord Monitor, most municipalities in New Hampshire use AccuVote optical scanning systems to tabulate paper ballots. When a voter fills out a ballot, it is scanned and dropped into a secure box connected to the scanner. 

Hebert told the Monitor the city uses an option in the ballot-counting system which allows some ballots to be diverted to a special partitioned section of the box. But she would not say if the ballots discovered in September were found in the special partition. Matteson said whatever happened, it was not the machine’s fault.

“There is no indication that the ballots were left in the ballot collection box because of machine error,” he said.

Representatives for AccuVote are unavailable for comment this week due to the Christmas holiday.

Matteson said the total number of found ballots is not known at this time, but he said they would not change the outcome of any race. While the problem may not be a mechanical error, some Granite Staters in the so-called voter integrity movement want to do away with all voting machines.

The New Hampshire Voter Integrity group is an online community that includes conspiracy theorists who believe Donald Trump won the 2020 election. An effort to get rid of the voting machines in Greenland recently failed overwhelmingly at the ballot box, though there are more plans in other towns to get rid of the machines.

The AccuVote optical scanners used in New Hampshire were generally manufactured in the 1990s, and do not have the ability to go onto the internet, or even be accessed by Bluetooth devices. That has not stopped conspiracy theories from speculating the vote totals were manipulated because of the machines.

The Laconia ballot error is similar to ballot mishaps in Bedford, Merrimack, and Nottingham when stray ballots were found months later.

Bedford tried and failed to keep word of its ballot mishandling secret. Last year, 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 Assistant Town Brian Shaughnessy, kept their existence secret from town councilors and the general public — including the 190 disenfranchised voters.

Last month, Town Manager Rick Sawyer sent members of the Town Council an email informing them that another stash of counted 2020 ballots had been found in a ballot box in September during the special election. It took the town weeks to tell anyone about these ballots. Senior Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards confirmed she’s investigating that latest ballot snafu. Edwards had all of Bedford’s ballot boxes seized as part of the investigation.

According to emails obtained by New Hampshire Journal, Town Council Chairman Dan Gilbert was upset that the news of the ballots had gone public. He told councilors not to answer questions about the ballots.

“I have asked for a meeting with our town attorney, town clerk, and town moderator to decide on a course of action in this matter. Please refrain from asking questions or making any comments until a path forward is decided on. I am very disturbed that someone already spoke to the NH Journal about this matter,” Gilbert wrote.

Amherst Man Who Threatened Violence Against Congress Puts Blame on Trump

Booze and heavy doses of right-wing misinformation pushed Navy veteran Ryder Winegar to call members of Congress last year, threatening to rape and murder them if they did not support President Donald Trump.

He’s now going to prison.

Winegar’s attorney, Charles Keefe, told the court this week his client regrets his actions and now rejects the ideology that led him to prison.

“After months of becoming caught up in ultra-conservative news-outlet information, and allowing himself to be indoctrinated with a dogma spewed by the former president and his followers, Ryder’s depression and anxiety found an outlet,” Keefe wrote. “Fueled by his intoxication, Ryder proceeded to leave a series of disgusting, racist, and threatening voicemails for six members of Congress regarding the results of the 2020 presidential election.”

Keefe asked the court to give the 35-year-old a sentence of time served. He’s been jailed since his arrest last year. John Farley, the acting United States Attorney for New Hampshire, wanted the 33-months in prison Winegar got, saying his threats were part of former President Donald Trump’s overall movement to upend the 2020 election.

“Add it all up, this is serious conduct that was intended to disrupt the functioning of government at the highest levels and warrants the imposition of a sentence that reflects the gravity of the offenses,” Farley wrote.

On the night of Dec. 15, Winegar downed a six-pack of beer, two bottles of sake, and a few tumblers of tequila before he called six members of Congress and threatened to kill them if they did not support Trump’s efforts to stay in office after his loss to President Joe Biden. 

The members of Congress are not identified in the court records. Winegar made calls to offices in D.C. after midnight, and left voicemail messages for the Congress members. He also left his name and phone number on many of the messages.

One of the messages Winegar, edited to remove extreme profanities, is a typical example:

“Here’s the advice, Donald Trump is your president. If you don’t get behind him, we’re going to hang you until you die … You can come, you can keep being a shill for the Chinese communist party. And you know, like the, uh, the Jewish banking cartel, or you can stand up and do the right thing and back America’s president Donald Trump. Support freedom.”

Days before he called and left the threats, Winegar also emailed threats to a New Hampshire state representative, according to court records.

When Capitol police investigators went to Winegar’s home in Amherst to talk about the phone calls, Winegar reportedly told them to get off his property. The next day his wife drove him to Boston’s Logan Airport where he boarded a flight to Brazil, according to court records. He stayed out of the country until he was convinced to come home, at which point he was arrested at the airport.

Investigators searched his home and found an AR-15 rifle loaded with light armor-piercing ammunition, a loaded shotgun, a loaded 9mm pistol, an unloaded rifle with a scope, several hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a body armor vest, with clips and Level IV body armor plates.

Winegar pleaded guilty to all charges in August. Keefe wrote that Winegar’s 10 months in jail is the longest stretch of time he’s been sober since he was 12. Alcohol and marijuana use played a key role in his crimes, as does childhood trauma, Keefe wrote.

“As well, his actions derived from an alcohol-fueled form of political hysteria that he now renounces. It is very likely that Ryder’s actions in this case, and the mindset that allowed him to commit these offenses, is connected to the instability and unusual influences of his childhood,” Keefe wrote.

Winegar grew up in the Church of Scientology, which was founded by pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard. It teaches belief in alien lifeforms that inhabit the human body and are the cause of all emotional problems, as well as belief in past lives, and a sci-fi infused history of the earth. Scientology also prohibits followers from seeking mental health treatments.

“The Church of Scientology has been described by government inquiries, international parliamentary bodies, scholars, law lords, and numerous superior court judgements as both a dangerous cult and a manipulative profit-making business,” Keefe wrote.

 Winegar found structure in the Navy, and excelled at learning languages, according to Keefe. He was honorably discharged but had trouble adapting back to civilian life. He stopped taking medications like Zoloft, and started heavy use of alcohol and marijuana leading up to the 2020 presidential election, according to Keefe. As part of the sentence, Winegar will pay a $15,000 fine.

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that threats of violence have no place in our political discourse,” Farley said in a statement. “While all citizens are free to express their political opinions, it is unlawful to threaten to commit acts of violence against members of Congress or members of the state legislature.  This defendant’s graphic threats were a troubling attempt to intimidate lawmakers and a direct assault on the functioning of our constitutional system.  This sentence should send a message to the community that those who threaten to commit acts of violence against duly-elected legislators will be held accountable for their unlawful conduct.”