A New Hampshire town of just 16,000 residents has become the focal point of MAGA-world fantasies positing that a reversal of President Trump’s 2020 defeat is just around the corner. Their hopes are pinned to an audit beginning on Tuesday that is looking at a discrepancy that arose in the recount of a state representative race in Windham.
After the audit plans made it into the spotlight of conservative media, more than 500 people reportedly showed up at a meeting last week of the Windham Board of Selectmen — normally a sparsely attended affair — where the review was being discussed. Trump cheered on those agitating around the audit in a statement the day after the meeting that celebrated the “great Patriots of Windham, New Hampshire for their incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive Election Fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Many in Trump’s circle claim the audit is one of several dominos about to fall that will finally validate his lies about the election being stolen from him — never mind that it will not examine the presidential results and that it will cover a number of ballots that’s well short of Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the state. An ongoing recount of the election results in Arizona’s largest county has become a magnet for 2020 election truthers who have been able shape its procedures around some of the most sensational mass voter fraud conspiracy theories of last year.
“This isn’t just about the town of Windham,” Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Monday evening, according to a video posted to Facebook of him speaking to a crowd of New Hampshire Trump supporters who have rallied around the audit. “We’re seeing things take place across this entire country.”
But the circumstances of the Windham audit are quite different than the baseless claims that drove Arizona’s Republican Senate to order the shambolic recount of Maricopa County’s results. The Windham audit is the result of a bipartisan push to review a legitimate discrepancy between the initial tabulation of the town’s state legislative results and the results that came out of a recount. The auditors chosen by state and local officials are known entities in the election administration world. Meanwhile, the Florida-based cybersecurity consultant hired to lead the Arizona recount has attracted scrutiny for his lack of election experience and his promotion of false election fraud claims last year.
Many 2020 election truthers are now pushing for the Windham auditors to be replaced with Jovan Pulitzer, an election conspiracy theorist who was reportedly involved in crafting some of the most questionable aspects of the Arizona recount.
But with the Windham audit expected to be finished in the next two weeks, if not more quickly, they’re about run out of options to hijack the New Hampshire review. Their latest gambit is a lawsuit filed Monday in New Hampshire state court seeking to stop the official audit so that the ballots could be turned over to the activists to do their own audit instead. The Democrats who sought the audit in the first place remain skeptical that the Trumpists will be able to derail the current plans.
“The horse is out of the barn,” Kristi St. Laurent, a Democratic candidate in the race in question, told TPM.
‘This Will Not Be Feather in Their Cap’
When November’s election results had St. Laurent just 24 votes shy of one of the four state representative seats up for grabs in the eight-person Windham race, she requested a recount. That recount produced discrepancies much larger than the normal variance that what would be expected for a hand recount of an election of this size. St. Laurent came out with 99 votes fewer, while the four Republican candidates who had beat her out each had 300 extra votes added to their tally.
She then sought a further review to determine what was behind the discrepancy. A debate dragged on about whether the kind of review she sought was permissible under state law and, if it was, who would have the authority to conduct it. Ultimately, the legislature unanimously passed legislation that authorized an audit of the Windham results. The bill laid out comprehensive and thorough rules for the review, which will also include a recount of the town’s votes in U.S. Senate and governor’s races, as well as an examination of the election machines.
St. Laurent told TPM her goal in pursuing of the audit was not to reverse her loss, but to understand whether it was the original tabulation or the recount that produced the flawed count.
For months, St. Laurent worried that the discrepancy in her race would be usurped by the Trump election-reversal crusade, particularly as the recount suggested that the Republican candidates may have been deprived of a few hundred votes in the original tabulation. If anything, she said, she was surprised it took this long for the MAGA-universe to latch on.
“I just hope we get some answers that are clear enough,” St. Laurent said. “I’m sure they’ll find something somewhere else to look for, but this will not be a feather in their cap.”
A Discrepancy That ‘Does Not Define Massive Voter Fraud’
The biggest flashpoint in the Windham audit so far has been the Board of Selectmen’s choice of Mark Lindeman as one of the auditors, as the town was allowed to hire one of the three members of the audit team. Lindeman is co-director of Verified Voting, a well known election technology non-profit.
Right-wing blogs like the Gateway Pundit seized on the fact that Lindeman had signed a letter, along with other election experts, opposing the Arizona’s Senate launch of the Maricopa audit. There are also suspicions about Lindeman’s selection being announced shortly after Vice President Kamala Harris visited the state, Marylyn Todd — a “voter integrity” activist who is trying to coordinate a “citizen’s audit” — told TPM.
In addition to the lawsuit, there was also a petition drive over the weekend to collect the signatures of those who want Pulitzer on the audit team. Pulitzer — derided by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) as a “failed treasure hunter” when he tried to meddle in the election there — has fashioned himself as a “pattern recognition expert,” according to the Daily Beast, who claims he’s created key technology to examine ballot folds. He previously invented a scan code that, the Beast noted, was deemed by a computer trade magazine to be among the “Worst Tech Products of All Time.” The findings he’s turned up when he also tried his hand at treasure hunting have also been questioned.
Todd says her group has collected more than 1,000 signatures from Windham residents so far. (She herself is not a full time resident of Windham — she said she typically spends the summer months there and the winter months in Nashua, but has been seeking to become a full-time Windham resident since before getting involved in the audit.)
When Lewandowski — who is a Windham resident — spoke to Todd’s group on Monday, he was presented with a copy of the lawsuit filed Monday for him to show to Trump. Lewandowski told the crowd he was with Trump in Florida last week, the day before Trump put out his statement on the Windham audit, and that the former President “is actively watching whats happening.”
Lewandowski — when asked by TPM if he was serving as a liaison to Trump’s inner circle — said via text that he was getting involved “because I want ballot integrity” and because Windham is where he lives.
Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who signed the bill sanctioning the audit, has pushed back on the commentary from Trump and his supporters about what the Windham audit will prove.
“A discrepancy of 300 votes out of over 800,000 cast does not define massive voter fraud by any means,” Sununu said, according to the AP. “We passed a bill, we’re going to do an audit in Windham. If anything, I think the fact that we focus on 300 votes goes to the integrity of our system.”
Matt Shuham contributed reporting.