Trouble Brews in New Hampshire for Voter-Fraud Showdown

MANCHESTER, N.H. (CN) – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach set the stage for a much-anticipated meeting of the voting commission he leads by lobbing unsubstantiated fraud claims at New Hampshire, where lawmakers will gather Tuesday.

“It has long been reported, anecdotally, that out-of-staters take advantage of New Hampshire’s same-day registration and head to the Granite State to cast fraudulent votes,” Kobach wrote in a recent column for Breitbart.

Already facing sanctions for misleading a court on voting-rights issues in his home state, the Kansas Republican was appointed this past spring to serve under Vice President Mike Pence as vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

The commission got off to a rocky start in July — inspiring a court case over its failure to comply with public-records laws — and scheduled its second meeting for Tuesday at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Both President Donald Trump and Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost New Hampshire by razor-thin margins last fall. Since then, the president has repeatedly claimed without evidence that New Hampshire is home to widespread voter fraud, and that “thousands” of people from Massachusetts were bused in to vote.

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, one of five Democrats who sits on the 12-member commission, is set to host Tuesday’s gathering, the goals of which include reviewing election data and discussing declining public trust in elections.

This past Friday, all four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation called on Gardner to step down from the panel.

“Both Secretary Gardner’s association with this partisan commission risks tarnishing his long legacy of fighting for the New Hampshire Primary and promoting voter participation, and it would be in keeping with his distinguished record to immediately relinquish any role with this commission,” Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan said in a joint statement.

Gardner echoed the lawmakers’ criticism of Kobach’s claims but refused to leave his commission seat.

In addition to his mention of anecdotal evidence, Kobach had claimed that the “proof” of New Hampshire voter fraud lay in data showing 6,540 people who registered to vote on Election Day used out-of-state driver’s licenses.

Undercutting the value of this evidence, however, is a state law that allows someone to be domiciled in New Hampshire for voting purposes while a resident of another state. Such voters commonly include college students and members of the military.  

New Hampshire Public Radio reported in February that the majority of registrations with out-of-state driver’s licenses occurred in towns that are home to colleges and universities. They note the data also does not reveal which candidate or party those voters chose.

Shaheen and Hassan were critical of the commission’s purpose and Kobach’s claims in their joint statement. “It has been clear since its inception that President Trump’s voting commission is an attempt to grossly mislead voters and lay the groundwork for broad-scale, politically motivated voter suppression,” thy said. “Now, the head of president Trump’s misguided commission is using deceiving and irrelevant data to rehash the same false claims that have been debunked time and again by independent analysis and members of both parties in New Hampshire.”

The commission has been beset by open-records blunders since its inception, inspiring several lawsuits and refusal by many states to send their voter information.

Secretary Gardner resolved a lawsuit with the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union by agreeing to send electronic copies of marked public checklists to the commission. It was subsequently discovered that some of the public checklists included the names of several people under protective domestic-violence orders. The issue forced Gardner to suspend plans to send the information to the commission until the names are redacted.

Tuesday’s meeting was open to the public by registration, but quickly met capacity. It is expected to be viewable through live-streaming.

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