Mystery of the 31 ‘missing’ ballots in Laconia Ward 5 is solved


LACONIA — The mystery of the 31 ballots that dogged the recount in the election for the New Hampshire Senate in District 7 was resolved on Monday, and Democrat Andrew Hosmer of Laconia congratulated Republican Harold French of Franklin on his victory by 17 votes.

On election night French was declared the winner by a margin of just 13 votes, 13,865 to 13,852, and Hosmer requested a recount. When the votes were recounted by hand French's margin widened to 17 votes, 13,880 to 13,863, and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner verified the result.

However, when the votes were recounted by hand, both candidates lost votes in Laconia, Ward 5, which Hosmer originally carried by 64 votes, 523 to 459. Hosmer's vote fell by 18 to 505 while French's vote fell by 13 to 446 and the total number of ballots cast in the race shrank by 31, from 982 to 951. In other words, on election night officials at the polling station in Ward 5 reported that 31 more ballots were cast in the race than were found and counted in the course of the recount, which prompting suspicions that 31 ballots had gone astray.

In Laconia, City Clerk Mary Reynolds flatly insisted that there were no missing ballots. She met with the election officials from Ward 5 last Friday and, after carefully retracing the steps taken on election night, soon unravelled the source of the discrepancy. She said that once the polls closed the moderator emptied the machine of ballots. First, three ballots that were rejected by the machine were counted. Then the ward clerks were given the 31 ballots bearing write-in votes in order to tally the write-in votes. But, instead, all the votes — not only the write-in votes — on those ballots were counted, which led to double counting the votes — first by machine, then by hand — on those 31 ballots.

Reynolds said that before 5 p.m. on Friday she knew what had happened and reported to the New Hampshire Secretary of State. On Monday, attorney Paul Twomey and Lucas Meyer, representing Hosmer, appeared at City Hall, where Reynolds explained how the discrepancy in the results arose.
Soon afterwards Hosmer issued a prepared statement congratulating French while adding "I would like to thank the Laconia City Clerk's office for their diligent work over the past five days to help address discrepancies that were identified over the course of this extremely close recount."

One footnote to the election. Only in Salisbury among the 17 precincts in the district, which includes six wards in Laconia, three wards in Franklin and the towns of Andover, Belmont, Boscawen, Canterbury, Gilford, Northfield, Salisbury and Webster, did the tally reported on election night match the tally following the recount.

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Sanbornton tax rate set, down 1.5 percent

SANBORNTON — Property owners are receiving good news this holiday season, as most will be seeing a decrease in their tax bills. The 2016 tax rate for the town of Sanbornton has been set at $23.63 per $1,000 of property value. Town Administrator Katie Ambrose said "The rate was preliminarily set at $23.78, which is a 0.96 percent reduction from the 2015 rate of $24.01. While the overall rate had gone down, the town's portion of the rate rose from $8.82 to $8.97. The Board of Selectmen decided to utilize $60,000 of the town's unassigned fund balance to offset the increase in the town's portion, thus stabilizing the rate and bringing the overall tax rate down even further to $23.63."

The final tax rate is a 38 cent, or 1.58 percent, reduction from the 2015 tax rate.

The 2016 tax rate breakdown is as follows:

Municipal: $8.82
Local Education: $11.04
State Education: $2.43
County: $1.34

Tax bills were issued on Nov. 9, and are due by Dec. 16.

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7 have filed claims for lost wages against LaconiaFest

LACONIA — Seven people have filed unpaid wage claims against the promoter of LaconiaFest and the two corporations with which he was associated.

One man, Kenneth D. Martinsen of Manchester filed his claim for $582.50 plus costs and his $100 filing fee in the Belknap County Superior Court and received a judgement for the same.

A lien was placed on any property or assets of Michael Trainor, LaconiaFest, and Yesslar Global Partners, LLC all of Gilford for three years.

A spokesperson from the N.H. Department of labor said yesterday the total of the seven unpaid wage claims is $4,215, including Martinsen's.

LaconiaFest was an attempt by Trainor and others to bring high quality rock bands to the Weirs Beach Drive-in Theater property during this year's Motorcycle Week, which he did.

However, the event was in trouble from the beginning when much smaller crowds than predicted came to the shows.

Conflict between LaconiaFest and the city grew because venue managers wanted to keep the gates open and reduced the costs of admissions, meaning police and fire services were never sure how many people were actually going to show up.

By the end of the week, the three top entertainers, including Ted Nugent, Brett Michaels and Steven Tyler, performed to crowds of about 3,000 to 4,000 each. The concerts themselves were considered to be very well performed, however the gate receipts materialized to allow LaconiaFest to pay its bills.

By the end, the city covered some $63,000 in public safety costs the promoter was supposed to pay and it now appears at least seven people were not paid the wages they were promised.

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