Attorney General: “Additional investigation” underway in the Bedford Ballot case

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More trouble for embattled Bedford election officials as the New Hampshire attorney general’s office announced a “further investigation” into the city’s botched 2020 and 2021 election ballots.

Deputy Solicitor General Myles Matteson has filed an application in Hillsborough – North Superior Court in Manchester seeking a court order to open the sealed ballot boxes and a sealed envelope containing the election reports as part of the investigation, which has launched after the discovery of new information.

“While it is clear that a number of absentee ballots were not cast and counted by Bedford election officials on November 3, 2020, important details that led to the error – and a record of officials’ attempts to reconcile the election results – have yet to be determined,” Matteson wrote in the court filing. “Based on new information provided more recently in additional interviews with Bedford officials, the Attorney General must conduct an additional investigation into election law compliance.”

Bedford election officials mishandled 190 ballots in the 2020 election and those ballots were never counted. They compounded this mistake by covering up the mistake for 11 months, not telling the elected city council, and keeping it a secret from disenfranchised voters. Now the attorney general’s office wants a full account of all mishandled ballots and full disclosure to affected voters.

“The purpose of the count is to verify that the number of ballots – and the names on the affidavit envelopes – match the list created by Bedford election officials, to ensure that all voters whose ballots weren’t counted were properly informed,” Matteson told NH. Newspaper.

The Attorney General’s office began investigating failed ballots beginning in November 2020, shortly after being made aware of the issue. City election officials made no disclosures about the ballots until October 2021, after the NH Journal broke the story.

According to a letter from the attorney general’s office sent to Bedford officials last year, the city was supposed to notify the 190 voters whose ballots had not been counted. Bill Klein, who served as the city’s moderator during the election and subsequent fallout, has repeatedly asserted the opposite, saying the attorney general ordered him to remain silent on the ballots.

“I persisted in contacting (the attorney general’s office), because I thought it was wrong to do nothing, including telling you and the voters as soon as possible,” he said. he told city council members after the problem was revealed. in November 2021.

However, General Counsel Anne Edwards sent Klein and city election officials a scathing letter in November to set the record straight.

“At no time did the Attorney General’s office direct Bedford election officials not to explain the situation with the 190 mail-in ballots to City Council or anyone else,” Edwards wrote.

According to Edwards, Klein could have disclosed the issue at any time. And, she said, the city was specifically asked to release that information to voters starting in June and July 2021. Klein and others wouldn’t tell voters, according to Edwards.

“Since early June, our office has been in contact with Bedford election officials regarding possible remediation plans and investigative talks,” Edwards wrote. “During these conversations, Bedford election officials raised concerns that they did not want to inform voters that their ballots were not counted. Our office has indicated that such notification is a requirement of any remediation plan.

While Klein’s claim that the attorney general’s office demanded silence was incorrect, someone actually ordered him to keep voters and the city council in the dark: the attorney and Brian Shaughnessy, then deputy city moderator.

Long after the letter containing the misrepresentation was sent to voters, Shaughnessy publicly acknowledged that he gave the problematic legal advice to his fellow city officials. Shaughnessy admitted as much at the November 2021 city council meeting and during the New Hampshire Executive Council hearing on his nomination to become a circuit court judge. (The GOP-controlled Council rejected Shaughnessy’s nomination by a 4-1 vote.)

Shaughnessy said he believes the investigation will be completed in weeks, not months, and the information will come to light. He also claimed that the attorney general’s office never gave Klein permission to go public.

“The Attorney General’s investigation was a criminal investigation, and [Town Clerk] Exit [Kellar] and invoice [Klein] could be subject to criminal penalties, including felonies,” he told the city council. “I told them to get permission from the attorney general’s office to share and they never received that permission until the report was released.”

The Attorney General’s report was released in October 2021.

Klein also maintained that he never got permission to make the disclosure despite repeated appeals to the attorney general’s office.

“I said, ‘Please move this thing on because we want to be able to get this over with. We want to be able to tell people, especially voters,” Klein told the city council.

Edwards said that was not true.

“Our office has never asked you not to tell anyone about the incident involving the 190 uncounted absentee ballots,” Edwards wrote to Klein.

While Shaughessy said he didn’t want the matter to become public and told Klein and others not to talk, he also claimed there was no intention to hide the errors, being given that the Attorney General’s office would make the case public at some point.

“It would be sheer madness for them to try to hide this knowing that this letter (from the Attorney General) was going to be issued, you would be informed, so there was no bad motive here to hide the bullet. Who wins by hiding the ball? Shaughnessy said.

But Klein wanted to hide the ball, so to speak, and dragged her feet on the notifications, according to Edwards. He was ordered to do the notification in August and September and was finally told that he would have to do the notifications after the special election in September.

During this special election, another unknown number of uncounted ballots were found from previous elections. This was kept secret until November and prompted another investigation by the Attorney General’s office, which is also ongoing.

The Attorney General’s office received permission from the courts to open ballot boxes and envelopes in the Bedford case. Edwards told the NHJournal it was part of the office’s due diligence.

“We take this very seriously. We want to confirm that any voter whose ballot has not been counted is notified and given the information to which they are entitled,” Edwards said. “In regards to the ballots found in the 2021 special election, we want to confirm the number of ballots and whether the number may have impacted the outcome of a race.

“It’s always a big concern for us,” Edwards said.

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