Recounts Unfold — Slowly — in State Races

Volunteers move through stacks of ballots during a recount Wednesday in the Legislative Office Building, behind the Statehouse, in Concord.

The term “hand recount” is about as straightforward as could be. Depending on your level of interest (say, if you’re the one facing a recount), it can be exciting, but to the uninitiated observer, it can be about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Each recount is tackled by several teams, with a few people stationed on each side of a table. One volunteer reads the votes as another keeps a tally; meanwhile, observers look on, with at least one watching each of the volunteers on the other side of the table. And this carries on for hours.

Boxes of ballots sit waiting to be recounted Wednesday.

If how recounts happen seems a little dry to you, why they happen is more interesting.

Election campaigns can take months, even years, of work, but that’s all supposed to be settled on Election Day. Sometimes when all the ballots are counted, races are just a little too close not to warrant a second look. For example, Deerfield Democrat Maureen Mann’s 13-vote win in Rockingham County’s 32nd District. Her opponent, Republican Don Gorman, requested a recount. In that race, the recount affirmed her victory, and even added a handful of votes to her column.

Though vote counts can shift a bit, overall results don’t change that often. Through the end of the day Thursday, only two recounts – both in state House races – ended with a different winner.

Outgoing House Speaker Bill O'Brien, far left, looks on as ballots are recounted in his House district race. O'Brien's re-election was affirmed by recount.

One recount many had an eye on was in the two-seat Hillsborough County district that covers New Boston and Mont Vernon. That, of course, is the home district of outgoing House Speaker Bill O’Brien. With the Democrats taking back control of the House, O’Brien had already lost his speaker role, and he finished second in his district, just 67 votes ahead of Democrat Kary Jencks.

As the recount was unfolding, Jencks said though she didn’t necessarily expect any big surprises, she requested the recount because “quite honestly, I had too many people telling me to do the recount.”

In the end, the outcome of that race didn’t change, sending O’Brien back to the House. Regardless of the results, the recount still provided a valuable service, Jencks said.

“If anything, it makes sure that everybody’s vote got counted,” Jencks said.

State Rep. Dan Eaton, of Stoddard, oversees all recounts and was shuttling between two on Wednesday morning.

“My job is to oversee all the recounts and to train the counters in advance of what to look for, (such as) any anomalies and any problems that could exist, any ballots that could be challenged and to ensure that our candidates get a full, fair and accurate count,” Eaton said.

Recounts will continue through Tuesday, ending with what could be a pivotal recount of Senate District 16 between Hooksett Republican Sen. David Boutin and Manchester Democratic challenger Kathleen Kelly. You can find a full schedule of the recounts at the Secretary of State’s website at http://sos.nh.gov/.

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