Published on Tuesday, the conclusions and recommendations from the Windham audit came over six weeks after it ended on May 27. One of the auditors, Harri Hursti, verified on Monday that his team offered its conclusions to the state a day before.
The three-person audit team made up of Hursti, Mark Lindeman, and Philip Stark, discovered that "harried election officials borrowed a folding machine to send out thousands of absentee ballots more quickly, and votes on roughly 400 ballots were miscounted as a result."
Notwithstanding the mistakes, the auditors do not think the machine was altered to achieve the result on purpose, nor that town officials could have been expected to foresee the problem. The team further did not find any reason "to believe that the miscounts found in Windham indicate a pattern of partisan bias or a failed election."
The results of the audit cannot alter the results of the Rockingham County District 7 House of Representatives race, according to S.B. 43, and it must uphold the recount. The hand tally of ballots further looked at the contests for governor and U.S. senator.
"Even this near-perfect storm was not enough to alter the reported outcome in the State Representative contest (although under different circumstances, it might have). All counts agree that Republicans swept Windham’s four seats in the state house of representatives. Nevertheless, the error – along with the smaller discrepancies in the landslide Governor’s contest — expose some vulnerabilities that warrant further attention," the auditors announced in their findings.
Auditors further compared AccuVote report tapes from two different towns in New Hampshire and discovered that recounts in nine other state representative races using AccuVote did not have comparable errors, leading them to think the overall impact of ballot folds in the 2020 election was "marginal."
"It is not impossible that folds affected the outcome of some contest in the 400-seat New Hampshire House of Representatives, but we can conclude that Windham was not the tip of a massive miscount iceberg," they explained.
While the audit team found other insignificant errors and irregularities in their results, not all could be "confidently attributed."
Among their recommendations to prevent similar difficulties from taking place in future elections, the auditors recommended officials to consider not folding ballots at all, clearly direct officials to fold absentee ballots along the score lines and double-check fold locations, check fold locations when opening absentee ballots, add process controls to ensure that all accepted absentee ballots are counted, allow overvote notification on the AccuVotes, advance machine maintenance, conduct routine risk-limiting audits of all election results, keep ballots from different scanners or counting methods separate, on Election Day and thereafter, and through recounts, monitor ballots, write-in votes, undervotes, and overvotes.