On the ground in NH: Recount Update

Bev Harris | Op-Ed News | Friday, January 18, 2008

Writing this last night, I was quite tired. I will post photos – the slits are not “through the box” in the sense that they are in the middle of the cardboard. They deliver the ballots in a variety of cardboard boxes. The lid of the cardboard box is taped and has various seals on it, some old, from using the box before, some new. The slits cut through any tape or seals. They don’t cut into the cardboard itself, and I’m going to edit the post above to clarify that.

The other thing that isn’t clear from the above post is the timing.

1. We noticed the slits in the vault and confirmed when they brought the ballots out that the slits were still there.

2. Then we looked at the ballot boxes as they were being delivered. Those, too, had slits.

3. Then we visitied towns that had ballots scheduled for pickup. We had time to visit only two towns. Both towns had ballot boxes with no slits.

4. While at these towns, we waited for the pickup van to show up. When it did, we videotaped the ballot boxes already in it.

5. When we got back to the archive building where they were having the
recount, we awaited the van with the ballot boxes we just videotaped. We waited quite a while. Almost everyone left, the recount ended for the day, and still no van. The van finally pulled in after all but a couple observers had gone home. We videotaped what came out of the van. It was in the same condition as what we videotaped at the towns. Of course, Butch and Hoppy knew we had been taking videotape because we did it right in front of them.

6. The normal procedure has been:
– bring the incoming ballot boxes into the front door of the building
– roll them through the counting room, which is a large room similar to a library reference room
– from there to roll the cart containing the incoming ballot boxes through the back door of the counting room
– insert key card into the warehouse area door
– roll the ballots down the hall in the warehouse
– open the ballot “vault” door with a key (it is a sturdy metal door but opens with a single key)
– put the incoming ballots in the vault
– When they will be counted, take them from the vault back into the counting room.

What they did last night, with the incoming batch that we had photographed in the field, was roll them into the counting room. We waited. The handful of officials waited. These officials included Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Head of the Archive building Frank Mevers, Assistant secretary of state David Scanlan, Ballot transport drivers “Butch and Hoppy” (whose names are really Armand and Peter); Kucinich representatives Manny and Pat, a secretary of state assistant
named, I think, Karen Hand.

They waited. We waited. It was very odd, to me at least. The ballots were sitting in the middle of the counting room, all these officials were standing around talking quietly with each other. I assumed they were waiting for something, results sheets perhaps. I decided to stay with video ready until the ballots were wheeled back to the vault.

One of the transport guys, “Hoppy” I think, then said that the ballots would not be taken to the vault that night because it was “closed” — implying that whoever had the key was no longer there. Frank Mevers had the key. But I saw Frank Mevers. And the ballots had been moved to the vault even later the night before, because counting teams had stayed and counted up until about 7 pm.

So Sally and I waited. They affixed one of these post-it peelable labels on each front door and said everyone will leave out the back door and the order was given for all to leave. We filed out the back door. I asked Secretary of State Bill Gardner why there was a change in procedure. He did not answer. I asked him again. After about three tries, he just said “it’s secure.”

The handful of officials and the two Kucinich people hung around the back door. I asked more questions about why the ballots were being left in a room with no key card. They put one of the label stickers over the door and said “it’s secure.” I continued to wait with this small group of people. Finally they told us to leave and everyone left the building.

We got in our car and drove a ways away. Most of the people left. Bill Gardner and Anthony Stevens stayed around for a while, standing outside the loading bay talking. Then they left.

The upshot: The ballots we had videotaped in the van being transported, which arrived intact without slits, were not taken to the vault and were not kept in a location requiring keycard access last night (except that entering the building itself requires a keycard)

To put my concerns about this in context:

Paddy Shaffer and I arrived at the archive building on Tuesday afternoon prepared to videotape incoming ballots as they came in that afternoon and throughout the night. We were told the (in my opinion) contrived story that no videotaping would be permitted because mental patients from a hospital about a block away might wander into the parking lot/loading area. We made a point of pressuring Bill Gardner to have this ban lifted.

They had clearly been planning for ballots to begin arriving Tuesday. I asked Frank Mevers, head of the archive building, if he could walk us through the observation area where the ballot intake process would take place. At that point he went into the back, had a long phone call, and came out saying they wouldn’t be delivering the ballots that night.


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