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AG Investigating Election Law Violations Ahead of Town Meeting

Anonymous election mailers and unsigned political websites are becoming too common in New Hampshire as cities and towns prepare for their school and town meetings, and Attorney General John Formella is advising the public to be wary.

Formella’s office announced Tuesday it is dealing with five election law violations this week, days before the start of the town and school meeting season.

“As the elections are so close, the identities of these individuals may not be known prior to the elections. As a result, (Formella) reminds voters to do their own research on candidates and warrant articles before they vote,” the statement from Formella’s office stated. 

Town meeting season, the oldest form of democracy in the United States, traditionally starts the second Tuesday of March. Formella’s office cites five reported cases of election law violations designed to impact voters.

People are encouraged to engage in the elections through mailers, websites, and other forms of campaigning, but they need to follow the law. Political communications and political signs— “express advocacy” communications—are required to have information identifying the person or entity responsible for the advertising, known as “paid-for” disclaimers, under New Hampshire law, the Attorney General’s Office reminded the public.

“Political advertising, mailers, and signs are one of the treasured traditions of New Hampshire elections. They are also a physical expression of people’s First Amendment right of free speech. However, voters also have a right, under New Hampshire law, to know who is issuing political advertising in support or opposition to a candidate or a question on the ballot,” Formella’s statement read.

Two of the five complaints investigated this week resulted in the people responsible being identified.

In Thornton, unidentified flyers were sent directing voters to visit the website “” The website, also unidentified, told voters to vote “NO” on certain warrant articles at the March 9 school district meeting. 

The Attorney General’s Election Law Unit and Thornton Chief of Police Daniel Gilman tracked the flier and website to a group of approximately 20 Thornton residents, including David Rivers, who is responsible for the “” website. Bob Hatch was identified as the person who is responsible for the flyers. Rivers was directed to correct the website to comply with the law.   

In Milford, anonymous “Community Help LLC” published the website “” which contains endorsements of candidates and warrant articles on the Milford ballot for the March 14 election. Jeff Horn was later identified as the person responsible, and he will be correcting the website and adding his name to future political material.

However, investigations into three more anonymous websites remain open. That includes Raymond’s “” website; the “” site trying to influence the Newfields elections; and the anonymous mailers in Hollis telling people to vote “no” on the town’s warrant article 2. The Hollis fliers were mailed under a Tampa, Fla. postal permit. 

However, the biggest open case of election fraud is from the 2022 Republican primary in New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District. A Democratic-affiliated print shop shipped at least four different illegal mailers designed to influence the GOP primary. The printer, Reynolds DeWalt Corporation, refused to reveal who paid for the mailers, prompting Formella to open an investigation last September.

The mailers were part of a successful effort to get MAGA Republican Bob Burns the GOP nomination, who was handily defeated by Democrat Rep. Annie Kuster in November.

Asked about the status of the illegal mailer case, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said the investigation remains active and ongoing.

NH Voter Confidence Committee: ‘Our Electoral System Works’

Granite State elections are free, fair, and accurate according to a report issued Thursday by the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Special Committee on Voter Confidence. 

“Our electoral system works,” said Ambassador Dick Swett, the committee’s co-chair.

Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said while the report is non-binding, he and his staff will review the findings and address areas of concern identified during months of hearings and public listening sessions.

Scanlan said Thursday he hoped New Hampshire voters read the report and gain confidence in the elections held in the state. The report found more transparency is needed to make sure voters can see how the process works.

“Voters should be able to see the process and feel confident votes are collected, secure, and counted,” he said.


Ambassador Richard Swett, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, and Bradford Cook speak to press about the Committee on Voter Confidence’s final report.

Scanlan created the committee to address concerns about the election process expressed by some Granite State residents. It was an issue former President Donald Trump put front and center in his 2024 presidential bid. While the committee found some minor concerns, Chair Bradford Cook said New Hampshire elections are free from systemic fraud and abuse and they are run by “friends and neighbors.”

“We listened to concerns, but all in all I think our report says and we believe New Hampshire elections are free from any systemic fraud,” Cook said. “Elections are designed to do one thing, elect the people who get the most votes or pass the resolutions that get the most votes, and our elections do that.”

A University of New Hampshire poll released earlier this month found 91 percent of Granite State residents are very or somewhat confident the November 2022 votes were counted accurately. Nationwide, 70 percent of Americans said in October voting was handled well.

Still, the report found more can be done to educate voters and election workers, adding to the confidence voters have in their elections. There is also a need to recruit more election workers, especially as many current election officials are aging and stepping down.

Swett said the committee heard from people who had specific complaints about the process or concerns about how some local election officials operated, which is reflected in the report. He wants to see the report open a dialogue in the state on how to strengthen the process.

“It has in it both the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Swett said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to be able to continue to improve the election process.”

He said that getting more people involved is vital to improving confidence and ensuring the process stays accurate and fair. He said that local involvement by regular voters for necessary to the functioning of that process.

“Being involved locally in your elections is what makes your elections safe and secure,” Swett said. “People need to get more involved by voting, volunteering, and making sure elections are fair and secure.”

The report was signed by seven of the eight committee members. The lone holdout was Windham’s Ken Eyring. He said Thursday he largely agrees with the report the committee issued but plans to present his own independent report to Scanlan that includes more emphasis on the concerns he heard from members of the public.

“I focused on capturing all public sentiment, positive and negative,” Eyring said. “I believe every concern should be presented (to Scanlan.)”

Eyring was involved in the Windham audit movement that questioned the results of that election after problems were found with the 2020 election in that town. An independent audit of Windham found folded ballots misread by machines resulted in skewed vote totals.

A subsequent state review also faulted local officials for compounding the errors by cutting corners ahead of the 2020 election according to a January letter from New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella and then-Secretary of State William Gardner to Windham town officials. Windham officials reportedly used an uncalibrated machine to tabulate the votes and skimped on a practice run that would have likely caught the issue before the election. The state required an election observer to oversee the election in 2022 in Windham to make sure it stayed free from potential problems.

Scanlan said his office is already working on addressing many of the concerns found by the committee, and he plans to bring proposals to the state’s Ballot Law Commission in the coming months for consideration.

The full committee report will be available online in the coming week.

Could There Be a Legal Battle if Towns Postpone Tuesday’s Elections?

Monday was supposed to be the calm before the storm, but in New Hampshire politics, the day was muddled with confusion over the legality of towns’ rights to postpone Tuesday’s elections due to the impending blizzard.

The day started with Secretary of State William Gardner saying, “We don’t have snow days in the law for elections.”

Yet, town officials throughout the state were taking matters into their own hands and postponing the annual “second Tuesday in March” elections for later in the week after the snowstorm subsided. Reasons for postponement were mostly due to ensuring the safety of residents and first responders from hazardous road conditions. Some parts of the state are expected to receive between 10 to 20 inches on Tuesday.

The secretary of state’s office maintained its position that by state law, towns are required to hold elections regardless of the snow and expected blizzard conditions. If they don’t, there could be legal consequences. Town officials say a different state law allows them to change the day of the election in an emergency situation.

“I don’t know what the consequences will be,” Paula Penney, elections assistant at the secretary of state’s office, told The Portsmouth Herald. “If they don’t have the election tomorrow, it may end up in superior court. But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t have any indication that (the office’s) position will change.”

The two laws in question are RSA 669:1 and 40:4. RSA 669:1 is the law the secretary of state’s office was citing as requiring towns to hold the election, regardless of the snow. The law states:

“All towns shall hold an election annually for the election of town officers on the second Tuesday in March…”

RSA 40:4 is cited by the towns for giving them the flexibility to change the date of election in the event of an emergency. This law states:

“In the event a weather emergency occurs on or before the date of a deliberative session or voting day of a meeting in a town, which the moderator reasonably believes may cause the roads to be hazardous or unsafe, the moderator may, up to 2 hours prior to the scheduled session, postpone and reschedule the deliberative session or voting day of the meeting to another reasonable date, place, and time certain.”

So which interpretation is right? Some legal experts said it’s not exactly clear if that law refers to voting for races in elections or voting for budget and other town issues at traditional town hall meetings.

John Greabe, a law professor at the University of New Hampshire, told NH Journal that the specific rule would “govern over” the general rule.

“It’s not uncommon for there to be two statutes that seem to be at odds with each other,” he said. “It’s a traditional approach to the conflict of laws where there is a more specific rule and a more general rule. It’s common for courts to go with the more specific rule.”

Cordell Johnston, government affairs council with the New Hampshire Municipal Association, said the organization sides with the towns.

“I don’t think there is any inconsistency in the law,” he told NH Journal. “We believe it’s very clear that they [towns] could move the election.”

He mentioned that a group of municipal lawyers on a list-serv “overwhelmingly” agreed that the moderator has the clear authority to reschedule the election.

With significant confusion surrounding the issue, Gov. Chris Sununu weighed in on debate. He spoke with municipal leaders and Attorney General Joe Foster in a Monday afternoon conference call encouraging them to hold elections, but said the state would not mandate them to do it.

“It’s our understanding that a lot of towns have already made a choice to postpone their elections,” he told reporters. “There are some differing opinions at the state level as to whether that is a valid process for them to take. The best we can do is to strongly recommend that all towns stay open for voting tomorrow. We think that’s a very important part of the process. But given the differing opinions, I don’t think we’re in a position to mandate that towns stay open or change their direction if they choose not to.”

Sununu cautioned town officials that if they postpone Tuesday’s elections, they are doing so “at their risk,” suggesting the town could be open to lawsuits for voter suppression.

“It would create a lot of confusion if one town voted on a school issue and another town did not, and you get into an issue of do you release the results and how is that processed,” he said. “You never want someone to have their vote suppressed, or have someone not be able to participate in the process because of confusion at the local level.”

Johnston said he interpreted Sununu’s message that “the state would not challenge a town’s decision to reschedule,” but an individual voter could.

“What I imagine could happen, although unlikely, a voter who is not happy about how things played out, would go to court and claim that the moderator violated his or her authority in rescheduling the vote,” he said. “But because the law is really clear, I don’t think the challenge will go that far.”

In order to make the interpretation very clear, and to avoid confusion like this in the future, New Hampshire Democratic leaders are planning to introduce emergency legislation this week to ensure that results from any town elections postponed due to snow are enforceable.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn and House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff released a statement announcing their plan to introduce legislation Wednesday during the Senate Rules and Enrolled Bills Committee:

“As elected officials, we have a solemn duty to ensure the safety of our citizens and no election should require voters to risk their safety in order to participate. Our election workers and town moderators are well-trained and take the task of facilitating transparent and fair elections seriously. We should trust them to make the best decision for their communities and for the safety of their people. That’s why we will attempt to introduce emergency legislation at this week’s Senate Rules Committee meeting to ensure that results from any elections postponed due to public safety concerns are enforceable and so that our local officials can make the right decision for their communities without fear of a legal challenge.”

Sununu agreed that the Legislature should take action to resolve the conflicts in state law, but it’s unclear if he will support the Democrats’ bill when it is introduced.

Is your local election and town meeting postponed? Check out the rolling list here as town officials make the decision.

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