WINDHAM, N.H. — In the massive conspiracy to steal the 2020 election away from Donald Trump, everything is potentially suspect — even chirping crickets.
One such insect was audibly present in overnight video of an empty room during an audit of discrepancies last month that New Hampshire officials were conducting in a town’s state House races. And that, in the eyes of some of the former president’s hardcore supporters, apparently meant the review could not be trusted.
“We were in a locked room on a military base with a state police guard outside. But apparently the room is breachable if a cricket can get in,” said Kristi St. Laurent, the Democratic candidate whose loss in November triggered a recount and a subsequent audit that has focused on a faulty ballot-folding machine that generated phantom votes for her. “The state police had to go in and catch the cricket and take it out.”
St. Laurent initially failed to win one of Windham’s four state House seats by just 24 votes. In the recount, the Republicans picked up some 300 votes each, while she lost 99 votes — which Trump supporters and the former president himself have zeroed in on as yet another example of the “massive fraud” that allowed the election to be “stolen” from him. Trump began spreading that lie just hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, and he’s continued ever since.
“Congratulations to 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,” Trump wrote on May 6 on his now-defunct blog. “People are watching in droves as these Patriots work tirelessly to reveal the real facts of the most tainted and corrupt Election in American history.”
But the actual audit turned up something far more pedestrian: A device used for folding absentee ballots so they would fit into envelopes had made creases that interfered with the vote-tabulating machines. Windham’s races for the state House – in which voters cast ballots for four candidates – were affected far more than other races because of the way the crease happened to fall on the ballot.
“Nothing today is showing evidence of fraud. Nothing today is showing evidence of digital manipulation of the machines,” Harri Hursti, a Finnish computer scientist who was hired by state officials to take part in a three-person audit team, said on May 27. “Right now, this seems to be a case of a perfect storm where so many things happened in order to have this discrepancy.”
To Trump’s supporters, Hursti’s analysis — which came after a painstaking two-week review that included a simulation using newly folded ballots — is not enough. They continue to bring up other issues, such as why a livestream of the room where the ballots were stored went down for 90 minutes one night. And how that cricket got into the room.
“I thought the audit would clear up things, but it actually raised more doubts in people’s minds,” said Bruce Breton, a Windham town selectman and Trump supporter who unsuccessfully pushed the town council to choose a conspiracy theorist currently taking part in Arizona’s audit as the town’s appointee to the three-member group.
“It was a shell game. Literally. The audit was a disaster,” said Marylyn Todd, a Trump supporter and founder of the New Hampshire Voter Integrity Group. She volunteered as an observer for the Windham review and is now pushing a statewide audit. “It’s just very sad, what’s going on in New Hampshire.”
Election experts have mocked the Arizona audit for including processes such as studying Maricopa County ballots under UV light and trying to determine whether they have bamboo fibers, supposedly an indicator that they had been smuggled in from China.
That has not stopped Trump supporters from demanding similar reviews in other states that Biden narrowly won, including Wisconsin and Georgia. And they’re planning another rally to demand a statewide New Hampshire audit next week.
“It’s been really crazy. But then again, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been living in Maricopa County for some time,” said Valerie Roman, who chairs the Windham Democrats.
“The stuff that they are complaining about now is so random and so ridiculous,” St. Laurent added, joking that if only the ballot-folding machine had processed all the votes in the election and not just the absentees, she might have finally taken a seat in the state legislature after half a dozen tries. “If I could get this to happen every time, I might actually win a race.”
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter