Now Windham is central to Trump in a different way. The former president’s always-shifting efforts to prove that he didn’t lose the 2020 election, eternally encumbered by the fact that he did, have settled for the time being on an anomalous recount in Windham’s 2020 state representative race.
“You’re watching New Hampshire,” he told customers at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., during an apparently spontaneous speech there last week. “They found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now. You saw that.”
This, he said, was further evidence that the 2020 election was “rigged.” But the reality of the situation in Windham, perhaps predictably, is more complex than the former president suggests.
The problem in Windham arose after a Democratic candidate named Kristi St. Laurent requested a recount in the race to seat four members of the state legislature. Eight candidates ran, four from each major party, with the top four winning election. After the votes were initially tallied, St. Laurent came in fifth, by a margin of 24 votes.
After the recount, though, she lost by more than 400. How? Because the recount found that all four Republicans had actually earned about 300 more votes than were included in the initial tally — and that St. Laurent had been allocated 99 more votes than she deserved.
It’s not clear why. The town put out a statement explaining its understanding of the situation. It reads, in part:
“While the paper work and procedures related to the election night results and the recount are still under review, an explanation of what may have occurred is not obvious. … There is a significant human element in conducting New Hampshire elections, and a simple human error impacting the count one way or the other cannot be ruled out. However, jumping to conclusions of what caused the disparity at this point is mere speculation and conjecture.”
Unfortunately for the town, jumping to conclusions is a favorite hobby of Trump and his allies. Particularly since, as the statement goes on to note, the counting of votes was done using an AccuVote system — a company that is part of Dominion Voting Systems. And Dominion has consistently been at the heart of allegations of rampant fraud in the 2020 election, even as those making such allegations have repeatedly and robustly been forced to retract their claims. “Dominion Voting Systems has never manufactured or programmed the devices used in New Hampshire,” the above statement notes at one point, but those making baseless claims tend to overlook such details.
The idea, it seems, is that this undercounting of votes for Republican candidates in Windham trickles up to Trump himself. The original tally reported by the town had Trump beating Joe Biden by 629 votes, making Windham an unlikely epicenter for efforts to hand the election to Biden. But if Trump’s votes were also undercounted by 300 votes? Well, then his margin of defeat in the state drops from just over 59,000 to just under 59,000.
More broadly, the idea Trump would have you believe is that this oddity somehow demonstrates that vote counting nationally is suspect, that these AccuVote systems misfired to his disadvantage all over, again clouding the actual election results. The Windham statement points out that there were 15 other recounts in New Hampshire after the 2020 election, none of which saw similar errors, but when your entire theory is predicated on cherry-picking anomalies, that’s hardly a barrier.
All of this happened months ago, by the way. The recount to which Trump apparently referred was completed by the end of November, and the state moved forward with its process for examining where the failure occurred. A full audit of the town’s results is beginning. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has promised to “get to the root of the problem” with the aim of ensuring that “even though it may have been a small problem, that it isn’t systematic across anything.”
The reason Trump may have thought this was a new issue is that the audit that’s soon to begin has gained a lot of attention in right-wing media. Republican activists have objected to the political scientist chosen to represent the town during the process, arguing that his opposition to the recount of the 2020 vote that’s underway in Arizona shows that he’s biased. (There are, in fact, very good reasons for an objective observer to view the Arizona effort with skepticism.) Because there are so few opportunities left for Trump to elevate claims of nefariousness, the existence of this particular opportunity gives it outsize importance.
Again, it’s not clear why the tally in Windham was off. What is clear is that, even if Trump won every single vote in the town, it neither affects the results in New Hampshire nor the presidency overall — nor does it necessarily suggest any systemic problem with vote-counting. It is one weird little glitch in one small town in a small state. But for a movement looking for any glitch anywhere as evidence that the whole system is crumbling, it’ll work.