For Immediate Release
August 16, 2022
Michael S. Garrity, Director of Communications
email@example.com | (603) 931-9375
Myles B. Matteson, Deputy General Counsel
Attorney General's Office Election Law Unit
Myles.B.Matteson@doj.nh.gov | (603) 271-1119
Concord, NH – Attorney General John M. Formella announces that the Attorney General's Office has concluded its review of the circumstances surrounding 179 ballots from Laconia Ward 6 across multiple elections being cast but not counted by election officials. In addition to the uncounted ballots, the investigation revealed a pattern of unintentional double-counting of votes by certain election officials. The Attorney General directed the resignation of the Ward 6 moderator, Tony Felch, who has resigned. The Attorney General additionally makes a finding that there were significant defects in vote counting and the administration of elections in Ward 6. As such, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, will be appointing an election monitor for the next election, the September 13, 2022, primary election.
At the November 2, 2021 City Election, the Laconia Ward 5 moderator discovered Laconia Ward 6 ballots from prior elections in the side compartment of a ballot collection box. This Office conducted an investigation that included holding a public session at which ballots and voting materials were inventoried. At the public session on April 6, 2022—conducted jointly with the Secretary of State's Office pursuant to a court order—the ballots were inventoried to determine the number of ballots and the election in which they were cast. All 179 of the ballots found in the side compartment were from 2020 elections, with 120 from the Primary and 59 from the General Election. None of the votes from those ballots were counted in those elections. 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.
Additional investigation revealed that Moderator Felch and another election official also failed to understand the procedure for counting write-in votes. As such, instead of hand-counting only write-in votes on cast ballots, they counted all the votes on ballots with a write-in vote. This resulted in dozens of 2020 General Election ballots being counted twice—once by the ballot counting device and a second time by Moderator Felch and a ballot clerk—leading cumulatively to approximately 500 double-counted votes across all races on the ballot. With 15 races on the ballot, counting all races on one ballot with a write-in vote would result in 14 double-counted votes. While double-counting resulted in approximately 500 excess votes recorded by election officials, the total number of ballots double-counted is likely to be between 38 and 54.
The Attorney General investigation also revealed that Laconia Ward 6 election documentation failed to accurately record basic election operations, including reconciling the number of ballots cast with the number of votes recorded. For the purposes of that reconciliation, the magnitude of the error in failing to count votes was at least partially offset by the magnitude of the error in double-counting ballots containing write-in votes. The inability of election officials to reconcile election results should have triggered immediate concern. However, neither Moderator Felch nor the former City Clerk notified the Secretary of State or Attorney General's Office of the issues. While the final combined impact of the failure to count cast ballots and double-counting is not able to be determined due to grossly inadequate Ward 6 election records, there remains a possibility that the number of votes lost from the uncounted ballots or added from double-counting could have been outcome determinative for some races.
Due to the fact that the deadlines for any recount for races on the ballots in question have long passed, there are no statutory mechanisms to revisit the vote counts for 2020 elections in Laconia Ward 6.
The Attorney General's Office investigation found no evidence supporting deliberate or intentional misconduct by Laconia Ward 6 election officials. Instead of the errors and failures described above being caused by knowing actions, they were driven by Moderator Felch's complete failure to understand the duties and operations of elections and his role as the moderator.
Moderator Felch's actions and failures are completely unacceptable and entirely unfair to the citizens of Laconia Ward 6 who trust that their election officials will work diligently to ensure that their constitutional right to vote is honored and protected. The Attorney General's investigation indicates that Moderator Felch's actions were extraordinary careless, but not intentional. Due to these two serious breaches of his duty to carefully and accurately administer elections—failing to count 179 ballots and double-counting dozens of other ballots in the 2020 General Election representing approximately 500 total double-counted votes—Moderator Felch was directed to resign his position as Ward 6 moderator and has done so.
The Attorney General anticipates closing this matter after appointment of an election monitor for the September 13, 2022, primary election and receipt of that monitor's subsequent report.
New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301