Just two weeks ago, New Hampshire Democrats were accusing Republican candidates of undermining election integrity and confidence in the democratic process. “Democracy is on the ballot,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) told MSNBC.
On Friday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to prevent a full recount of the ballots in a Manchester House race, arguing that even if the previously announced results were wrong, voters whose ballots may have been missed by state officials have no right to have their votes counted.
“Democrats are constantly accusing Republicans — falsely — of suppressing the vote, even when voter turnout is setting records,” said former Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien. “This lawsuit by the Democrats really is voter suppression. They literally want to keep legal ballots from being accurately counted.”
O’Brien is one of the attorneys representing the New Hampshire GOP in the election process. The lawsuit was filed by prominent Democratic attorney Bill Christie, who is married to Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington (D).
At issue is the recount in Manchester Ward 6, where Republican candidates lost 22 votes in the process, an unusually large number. The loss of votes dropped incumbent GOP Rep. Larry Gagne below challenger Maxine Mosley by one vote, handing her the win.
Almost immediately, GOP observers began suggesting that a stack of 25 ballots was missed during the recount process. 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 said Thursday more counting needed to be done.
“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.”
In their lawsuit, filed on behalf of Mosley and state Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Democrats argued Scanlan’s declaration of a winner in the Ward 6 race was “final,” even if proven to be incorrect.
“At the conclusion of the recount Democrat, Maxine Mosley was declared the winner by the secretary of state. The secretary of state’s declaration of Mosley’s victory was posted on the secretary of state’s website,” the lawsuit reads. “Pursuant to RSA 660:3 and RSA 660:6, I, the declaration by the secretary of state is ‘final’ subject only to a limited basis of appeal to the Ballot Law Commission.”
As for Scanlan’s call for the recount to continue on Monday, the lawsuit acknowledges his reason is “an alleged discrepancy in the number of ballots … counted during the recount, and the number of ballots counted during an audit.” But, it claimed, “The secretary of state’s notice ordering a second recount is an abuse of discretion, without precedent, and in clear violation of New Hampshire law.”
The Democrats are seeking a temporary restraining order preventing Monday’s scheduled recount and “permanent injunctive relief” against any additional recount, ever. In other words, once the mistake was made, the state of New Hampshire is not allowed to fix it.
Republicans spent much of Friday mocking Democrats for their “count every vote” reversal. Some posted links to a video of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has won the Democrats’ First In The Nation presidential primary twice, insisting that “we must count every vote.”
State Rep. Joe Sweeney noted, for example, that Soucy represents Ward 6 in the state Senate.
“Donna Soucy is literally suppressing the votes from her constituents in her own district. That’s some constituent service.”
But Democrats are not backing down.
“The law is clear. You can’t recount a recount,” tweeted New Hampshire Democratic State Party Chair Ray Buckley, who called the balloting data cited by Scanlan “NHGOP spin and rumors.”
“This isn’t about any alleged mystery ballots they’re throwing things against to see if they can keep Dem from being sworn for speaker’s election. Even if it means breaking state law.”
Buckley also referred to Republicans who want to count all the ballots cast as “election deniers.”
O’Brien said that beyond the political histrionics, the case “is very simple”: The right of voters to have lawful votes counted and candidates to have a complete vote count are federal rights that override the Democrats’ complaints.
“The Democrats are factually wrong in saying that the secretary of state has issued a formal declaration of the election when he did nothing more than read a tally by some counters who it turns out forgot to include some ballots.
“Even, however, if the Democrats’ interpretation of the statute to the effect that all inquiry ends when the counters’ tally is read is correct, which it is not, when it is clear votes were not counted, the voters and the candidates each have a fundamental constitutional right, protected by the courts, to have those votes counted.”
The news site Granite Memo quoted New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights’ McKenzie St. Germain urging accuracy and transparency in the vote counting.
“There is nothing more important to democracy than counting all votes accurately and with transparency in a timely manner. With so many state legislative races being recounted this year and control of the body up in the air, the stakes could not be higher,” St. Germain said.