Amid Talk of 'Rigged' Votes, N.H. Election Officials Say State's Systems are Solid

Oct 18, 2016

Secretary of State Bill Gardner says New Hampshire's use of old school voting systems makes it less susceptible to outside attempts at manipulating the results.
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The way Secretary of State Bill Gardner sees it, Granite State elections have gone on under dire circumstances before. This year, he thinks New Hampshire will be able to handle whatever’s in store this year on Election Day.

“We had an election in the middle of the Civil War, and we had an election in World War II,” Gardner said. “And we’re going to have an election on Nov. 8. And the people in New Hampshire are going to feel as good about that one as they felt about the others.”

As Donald Trump continues to claim that the upcoming election may be “rigged" and federal officials warn about potential cybersecurity threats to states’ voting systems, New Hampshire’s top election officials say they’re confident that such concerns won’t be a major issue here. (Experts have noted repeatedly that election-rigging, and voter fraud, is unlikely to be the problem Trump is making it out to be.)

Part of the reason for Gardner’s confidence amid all of the clamor? New Hampshire, unlike other states, still does a lot of things the old fashioned way: It hasn’t moved to online voter registration, it hasn’t adopted electronic voting systems, and there’s still a paper trail to back up poll results.

“We have a system that, we don’t have to be concerned that it’s going to be something different this time because of some imaginary foreign element out there or something that might be interfering with this election,” Gardner said Tuesday.

The state’s so comfortable, in fact, that Assistant Secretary of State Dave Scanlan says New Hampshire turned down an offer from the federal government to provide help guarding against possible outside hacking attempts on its election systems.

The Department of Homeland Security offered to lend a hand to states looking for protection against online hacking of their voting systems, citing concerns about the potential for hacking. The agency also encouraged state and local election officials to report potential incidents to a 24-7 response center.

Earlier this month, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress that it confirmed at least a few cases in which “malicious actors gained access to state voting-related systems,” but there was no evidence that any data in those systems had been changed as a result.

As of early October, the agency said 21 states had accepted its offer for help. 

“New Hampshire has not taken the federal government up on that, because we’re comfortable with our database,” Scanlan said. “We’re really an unattractive target, and that’s true for a number of reasons.”

As noted by The Concord Monitor, hacking into the voting machines used in municipalities across New Hampshire, while not impossible, would be difficult and labor-intensive: The parts of the machines that could connect to the Internet have been physically cut off, and “the only way to change these machines is to insert a memory card programmed by LHS Associates in Salem, and you can’t do that unless you first cut off a metal tamper-proof seal.”

A poll conducted this summer by the UNH Survey Center found that 83 percent of residents were confident in the accuracy of the vote counts in the most recent election.