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Salem examining how ballot misprints occurred

Union Leader Correspondent

March 15. 2018 8:46PM

SALEM — Town Clerk Susan Wall on Thursday said officials in Salem are working with elections services provider LHS Associates to figure out how misprinted ballots ended up at the polls earlier this week.

“We’re not blaming anybody at this point, it’s no one’s fault,” Wall said. “We’re going to get together and work together to see where the mishap happened.”

Issues arose in Salem after a handful of ballots called on voters to select two candidates for the open seats on the town’s budget committee. The authentic ballot, however, had residents voting for three open seats on the town’s budget committee, each a three-year term.

Wall said the error was immediately discovered Tuesday morning, only about 15 minutes after the polls opened, and new ballots were available within the hour. Moderators at each of the five polling locations in town explained the situation to those voters as they entered.

“Until we could get to all polling places we had them cross-out two and write three,” Wall added.

Forty-three of the mistaken ballots were cast during Tuesday’s town elections, but that number could be enough to sway the budget committee results.

Paul G. Huard and Peter Edgerly finished first and second with 808 and 679 votes respectively, the final seat was won by Sean Lewis over Terrence Scanlon by a mere 32 votes (654-622).

There were eight candidates in total for the three seats.

Lewis said he does not intend to request a recount, but understands if Scanlon does decide to do so. He noted he cannot rule out the fact the outcome could be altered with the irregular ballots, but he doesn’t “have enough data to say otherwise.”

“I know the folks working the polls, once they caught that they went out of their way to explain it to (voters). They did for me when I came in and got my ballot,” Lewis said.

Attempts to contact Scanlon were unsuccessful. Wall said there have not yet been any recount requests and candidates have until 5 p.m. on Friday to petition for one.

If there is a protest, it would go before a Superior Court judge in Rockingham County, said Deputy Secretary of State David M. Scanlan, but that’s up to the candidates.

“Based on the outcome, a candidate that’s on the losing side certainly could request a recount and to the extent that the ballots that had the error on them could be isolated, those could be set aside as challenged ballots,” he said. “If any of the candidates, pending the outcome of the recount, decide that they want to further appeal, they would take it to Superior Court.”

A judge would review the ballots and make a determination on the best course of action, Scanlan added.

Scanlan said irregularities on printed materials are not all that uncommon and proofing extensive ballots, especially considering the small font size, makes it easy to overlook items.

“In the specific instance of Salem, we had a call very early in the morning after the polls opened to just alert us to the fact that that mistake was identified and addressed,” he said. “It was caught early, the moderator in Salem made all the appropriate moves at that time and it minimized the impact of the error to the extent that that was possible. And if it can’t be resolved in a recount, it will be up to a Superior Court judge to decide.”

LHS Associates, based in Salem, is the largest provider of election services in the Northeast. Salem has used LHS for more than a decade for its elections.

According to the company website, LHS serves more than 750 communities and counties in New England and New York. They did not return a request for comment prior to presstime.

Politics Salem

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