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Judge Orders NH House Dem Accused of Stalking to Remain Behind Bars

State Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) will remain in jail as her attorney negotiates a plea agreement in the criminal case alleging she serially harassed a Hudson woman. 

Laughton, New Hampshire’s first elected transgender state representative, is not leaving Valley Street Jail in Manchester until at least Dec. 22, the date of her next hearing. Her attorney, Elliot Friedman, told Judge John Curran he hoped to have a resolution to the numerous criminal charges worked out with prosecutors in the coming weeks.

“We are negotiating a resolution,” Friedman said.

Laughton’s continued custody complicates Democratic hopes of wresting control of the House of Representatives from the GOP. With a razor-thin 201-198 GOP majority in the House, control of the body and the outcome of the secretary of state election on Organization Day (December 7) will come down to attendance.

Laughton is accused of repeatedly violating orders to leave a Hudson woman alone as well as charges of stalking, criminal defamation, and making false 911 calls. Laughton is already facing jail time after she pleaded no contest this summer to charges of making false 911 calls about the same victim. Prosecutors have told the court they plan to ask for the imposition of the suspended nine-month sentence brought in that case.

Laughton is being held without bail on the grounds she presents an ongoing danger to the community and the alleged victim. She was under court orders to leave the woman alone when she allegedly continued her campaign of harassment that stretches back to 2019.

Laughton’s status hearing, held in the Nashua District Court on Thursday, left the troubled state representative in jail pending the plea negotiations. Laughton appeared in court via video feed from Valley Street Jail. Laughton offered little comment during the brief hearing other than to object to the presence of media in the courtroom.

“I object to the press,” Laughton told Curran. “I will give interviews, but I figure right now this is a personal matter I need to deal with without the pressures of the press.”

Curran denied her objection, stating there is no reason to keep the press out of an open court proceeding.

Laughton could technically still travel to Concord for Organization Day, legislative sources said. New Hampshire’s Constitution bars police from stopping representatives from attending sessions at the State House. The question is, how badly do Democrats want her there?

Democratic Caucus leader, progressive Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester), declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Laughton’s disturbed behavior has been apparent for years before she won office as a state representative in 2020. She was convicted in 2008 of credit card fraud for stealing from a person in Laconia. Laughton was then charged in 2015 for calling in a bomb threat at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center hospital in Nashua. Those charges were later dropped as Laughton claimed she was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time.

Laughton won a seat for state representative in 2012 but was forced to resign soon after her 2008 credit card fraud arrest became public. Despite pressure from the Democratic Party, Laughton tried to run again to fill the seat in a special election after her resignation; that bid was cut short when it was deemed she was legally ineligible for office at the time since she was still technically serving her suspended sentence for the felony credit card fraud case.

NHDP ‘Senior Advisor’ Levesque Wants Secretary of State’s Job

Former state Sen. Melanie Levesque wants to be the Granite State’s next secretary of state, giving her the authority to oversee the state’s elections.

But critics say that would conflict with her current position: “Senior advisor to the New Hampshire Democratic Party.” And she is also a representative of a far-left organization that targeted New Hampshire’s election laws and promotes conspiracy theories about New Hampshire’s electoral college votes being “stolen.”

Levesque, an outspoken progressive Democrat, lost her bid to unseat Republican Kevin Avard earlier this month. Despite losing by nearly 700 votes, she made the odd request for a recount of her race.

But Thursday morning, she dropped her recount demand and instead released a statement announcing her intent to challenge current Secretary of State David Scanlan. The secretary of state is selected by the state legislature.

“It is no secret. Over the past decade in New Hampshire, our sacred right — the right to vote — has been under attack. New Hampshire has become home to some of the most aggressive attacks on our democracy,” Levesque said. “New Hampshire desperately needs a new secretary of state that will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible voter can cast a ballot without unnecessary government interference.”

New Hampshire has a tradition of nonpartisanship in its Secretary of State’s Office, established by legendary Secretary Bill Gardner, who retired last January as the nation’s longest-serving secretary of state. Though a former Democratic state representative, Gardner established a strong reputation for working with both sides of the aisle, angering his fellow Democrats by serving on President Trump’s voter fraud commission.

In 2018, Democrats unhappy with Gardner supported failed gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern for the position. Gardner picked up GOP support and was re-elected by a one-vote margin.

Scanlan, who spent 20 years as Gardner’s deputy, said he feels comfortable with his chances of keeping his job when the legislature votes. Asked about Levesque’s candidacy, he told NHJournal, “She’s welcome to do that.”

As a senator, Levesque chaired the Senate Election Law Committee where she advocated allowing unlimited mail-in ballots and voter registration over the internet.

Levesque is also an outspoken advocate of the federal “For The People Act” which would override New Hampshire’s election laws, end voter ID mandates, and force New Hampshire to provide a ballot to everyone without asking for identification. It would also override laws banning ballot harvesting (as long as the harvesters are not paid per ballot) and mandate curbside voting.

Levesque is such a strong advocate of those progressive voting policies she recorded a video on the anniversary of the House of Representatives’ passage of the “For the People Act” with fellow Democrat, state Sen. Tom Sherman.

 

The New Hampshire Democratic Party declined requests for comment about Levesque’s current position with the party. Levesque also refused to respond to reporters’ questions.

And a progressive group called The States Project features Levesque on its website, along with it goal to “block rightwing policies that harm New Hampshirites [sic] from becoming law and protect the Granite State’s four electoral votes from being stolen in the next presidential election.”

It also brags about its partisan involvement in New Hampshire’s legislative elections. “The States Project was early to identify the New Hampshire Senate as the most endangered majority in the country in 2020, after helping to flip it in 2018 by only 300 votes.”

Republicans immediately raised concerns about a partisan activist potentially serving in a position of overseeing the state’s elections.

“New Hampshire’s secretary of state has a historic record of working in a nonpartisan way to advocate for our election processes,” said Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Derry), who serves on the Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee. “I don’t believe anyone serving as a partisan advisor such as Mrs. Levesque can be entrusted to fulfill that role with the objectivity required.”

For his part, Scanlan has made increasing voter trust in the state’s election process. He created the Special Committee on Voter Confidence to address concerns about election integrity in New Hampshire. That committee has found no evidence of wide-scale voter fraud, and it is expected to issue its report in the coming weeks.

If the GOP backs Scanlan over Levesque, the narrow Republican majority could carry him to his first elected term in office, aided by the GOP’s 14-10 majority in the Senate. Republicans looked like they cemented their small lead over Democrats on Thursday with the reopening of the Hillsborough 16 district election that is likely to return the seat to Republican Larry Gagne.

‘Election Day’-Ja Vu: Windham Ballot Problems Discovered

Here we go again. 

On the eve of the primary election came reports out of Windham that ballots are being folded with the crease going through the voting oval, apparently repeating the same errors that led to an extensive audit of the town’s ballot system after the 2020 election.

According to reports, absentee ballots sent to Windham voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary have been folded twice, with the creases going through the ovals. The same improper folds on absentee ballots in 2020 resulted in anomalous results and new state oversight of the vote.

Windham Town Clerk Nicole Merrill could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Town Hall staff said she was away at Windham High School setting up for the election.

Both Anna Fay with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office, and Michael Garrity with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said state election monitors will be on hand Tuesday to make sure the election goes off smoothly.

“There will be an election monitor at the Windham polling place tomorrow. If there are any problems with improper folds or other issues, they will act accordingly,” Fay said.

Windham is one of three communities that will have state monitors in place to oversee the primary election due to multiple errors found in the 2020 voting process.

Windham, Bedford and Ward 6 in Laconia will all have election monitors in place In Windham, the audit found the vote total discrepancy was due to the improper folds. The folds in the paper ballots made it difficult for optical scan vote counters, AccuVote machines, to record the votes properly.

A state review also faulted local officials for compounding the errors by cutting corners, according to a January letter from New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella and Secretary of State William Gardner to Windham town officials.

“(S)imply out, town election officials cut corners. Some of those shortcuts created errors — such as using an uncalibrated folding machine — which were unintentional and perhaps unforeseeable, but ultimately resulted in ballots not being accurately counted,” the letter states.

The state ended up paying at least $123,000 for the outside experts to audit Windham’s voting totals.

In Bedford, a months-long controversy over 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.

In Laconia, a joint investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office found that 179 ballots went uncounted after the 2020 general election. The errors in this case were blamed on Ward 6 moderator Tony Felch.

“The ballots in the side compartment were not counted because Laconia Ward 6 Moderator Felch did not understand the basic functions of the ballot collection box,” according to the Attorney General’s release on the matter.

Felch was forced to resign from his volunteer position as part of the resolution of the incident.