In the NHGOP’s fight against the Democrats’ proposed federal takeover of local elections, one of their most powerful arguments is the Granite State’s record of Election Day success. It’s so effective, in fact, that even Democrats backing H.R. 1 like U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan have embraced it, while still calling for federal law to overturn local rules.
But a new voice has risen up to undermine the GOP’s claims about New Hampshire’s election integrity: Former president Donald Trump.
“Congratulations to the great Patriots of Windham, New Hampshire for their incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive Election Fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump said in a statement released Thursday morning. “The spirit for transparency and justice is being displayed all over the Country by media outlets which do not represent Fake News. People are watching in droves as these Patriots work tirelessly to reveal the real facts of the most tainted and corrupt Election in American history. Congratulations Windham—look forward to seeing the results.”
Trump is referring to an audit of the November election in Windham due to a massive swing between the machine count tally of votes on Election Day and a hand recount three weeks later. In an eight-way race (four candidates from each party) in which more than 10,000 ballots were cast, the Republicans had actually earned about 300 more votes than were included in the initial tally, and a Democrat had been given 99 more votes than were actually cast for her.
Interestingly, Trump won the Republican-leaning town by six points, 52-46 percent.
Now some Trump-friendly Republicans in the small, southern New Hampshire town are in a frenzy, believing they have caught a thread from the wider national conspiracy to steal the 2020 election from the incumbent. A recent community meeting nearly came to blows over the town Board of Selectmen’s choice of Mark Lindeman of Verified Voting to represent them in the audit. Some Trump supporters fear he isn’t on board with their view that the 2020 election was fundamentally corrupt.
Granite State Republicans have long had a somewhat schizophrenic stance on their election process. In defense of the First In The Nation presidential primary, they tout the long history of well-run contests without a glitch — unlike Iowa and Nevada, for example.
“We don’t have a voting problem here in New Hampshire,” said NHGOP Chairman Steve Stepanek regarding H.R. 1. “We do elections right.”
Republicans embrace the benefits of local control of elections espoused by Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat, who argues running elections at the town level puts power in the hands of officials who know their communities best. It also makes it harder for hackers to have an impact on a spread-out system with a diverse array of software.
At the same time, NHGOPers love to regale each other with tales of “busloads full of voters” crossing the state line from Massachusetts to turn the state blue. While there’s never been any credible documentation of this fraud — and the fraud cases that have been uncovered are just as likely to involve Republicans as Democrats — claims of Massachusetts mass voter fraud is an article of faith among the GOP grassroots.
Now that Donald Trump has weighed in, how will local Republican officials respond?
“A discrepancy of 300 votes out of over 800,000 cast does not constitute ‘massive election fraud.’ In fact, it is proof that NH’s voting process is the most reliable, safe, and secure in the country, and that we will ensure every last vote is accurately accounted for,” said GOP Gov. Chris Sununu.
Gardner also disputes the president’s claim. “There’s no basis for me to agree, based on everything that I’m aware of regarding the presidential election,” Gardner told NHJournal. “Nobody has brought any evidence before my office.”
Gardner agrees there was a problem in Windham and supports a follow-up audit. “The audit has just begun. The process will be public and the results will be public. Once it’s completed, the people can judge for themselves.”
And, Gardner notes, on a percentage basis, Windham’s 400-vote swing is not the biggest Election Day vs recount shift he’s ever seen. A 2008 recount increased one candidate’s vote total by 44 percent. “That’s a bigger percentage change than we have seen in this race,” Gardner said.
But there’s a huge difference for New Hampshire politics between 2008 and 2020. Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot in 2008.