The Bulletin Board

‘Ethical hacker’ named to Windham election audit

By: - May 3, 2021 5:17 pm
The word election on a computer screen

The Windham election investigation has caught the eye of Donald Trump. (Getty Images)

A prominent Finnish computer programmer and election expert will join a forensic audit of a New Hampshire town election last year, state officials announced Monday, boosting the profile of an investigation that’s caught the eye of Donald Trump.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General John Formella have chosen Harri Hursti as a member of a three-person team to look into the November election results in Windham, they said Monday.

Windham has been in the spotlight after a recount found that election officials had failed to count around 500 votes in the state representative race in November 2020.

On election night, officials announced that Democratic candidate Kristi St. Laurent had lost a chance at a seat by 24 votes. After a recount request by St. Laurent, the town announced that St. Laurent had actually lost by hundreds of votes that had not been caught in the first count.

Last month, the New Hampshire Legislature and Gov. Chris Sununu authorized a special audit of the town, allowing one member of the audit team to be designated by the town, one by the attorney general and secretary of state, and one jointly determined by all parties.

Hursti, a self-described “ethical hacker” and the founder of Nordic Innovation Labs, has worked around the world as a consultant on election security.

In 2005, Hursti helped hack into a Diebold optical scan voting machine as part of a test to expose security flaws. Over a series of hacks, Hursti was able to change the hypothetical votes in Leon County, Florida, by accessing the machine’s memory card. The company, Diebold Election Systems, has said that Hursti’s hacking test was misleading, but a UC Berkeley study later confirmed the results.

In recent years, Hursti has been raising alarm bells about potential future hacks of the American election systems, and urging states and local governments to bolster security.

In an email to Hursti made public Monday, Gardner and Formella said their offices were working to create the framework for the audit by finding a venue, a livestreaming process, and security for the ballots.

According to Senate Bill 43, which was fast-tracked through the Legislature in the first few months of session, the audit must include a recount of all the ballots using the same machines from November. That process will be livestreamed and available to certain observers designated by the town, Attorney General’s Office, and Secretary of State’s Office, as well as members of the public.

The team will then have 45 days to deliver a report to the state Ballot Law Commission and the town of Windham, which will be released publicly within an additional 45 days of its delivery.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.