MANCHESTER, N.H. (CN) – Unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud met with quick reproach Tuesday at a much-anticipated meeting of an advisory committee convened by the White House.
“Making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver’s license is an indicator of voter fraud would be almost as absurd as saying that if you have cash in your wallet, that that’s proof that you robbed a bank,” Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said to applause.
Dunlap is one of five Democrats to sit on the 12-member Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity launched this past May.
President Donald Trump convened the commission in connection to his long-standing claim that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in the election. Though he has not offered any evidence in support of such claims, it is the only explanation Trump has offered for losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton while winning the electoral college.
New Hampshire, where Trump and Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost by razor-thin margins last fall, have borne the brunt of these allegations.
In the days ahead of the commission’s meeting Tuesday at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump-appointed vice chair Kris Kobach repeated the president’s fraud claims in a column for Breitbart.
Kobach, who also serves as secretary of state in Kansas, has faced criticism for basing his article on anecdotal evidence and data showing that 6,540 people who registered to vote on Election Day used out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Indeed state law 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.
Commissioner Dunlap slammed Kobach’s claims as “reckless” at Tuesday’s meeting.
Cheers erupted for New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner as well when the Democrat argued that the numbers alone “don’t create proof.”
A second step is needed before coming to any conclusion about fraud, Gardner added.
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 noted that the data also does not reveal which candidate or party those voters chose.
Kobach, who also faces sanctions in Kansas for misleading a court on voting-rights issues in his home state, admitted Tuesday that it might not be “possible to condense a complicated issue in an 800-word” article.
After saying that he “struggled with what verb to use,” Kobach again laid out the theory that out-of-state residents took advantage of same-day registration to vote in the swing state.
“Until further research is done … we will never know the answer regarding the legitimacy of that particular election,” Kobach said.
Lacking a single woman or person of color, the 12-member panel who presented at Tuesday’s day-long hearing did little to assuage criticism that the commission’s mission is little more than a smokescreen to incite voter-suppression laws.
Testimony ranged from studies of voter behavior to the vulnerability of the election infrastructure system.
Early during the hearing, panel members considered the proposal of Dr. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center that all voters be forced to undergo the same federal background check as those seeking to buy guns. His presentation, which is available on the commission’s website, argues that local government should foot the bill to run its voters through the federal background check system as a deterrent to voter fraud. He cites Mexico’s success after passing strict voter requirements as an example.
Outside the hearing, nearly 150 protesters chanted “shame” and “let us vote” to arriving cars.
Just as the hearing got underway Tuesday morning, a judge with the Hillsborough County Superior Court South weighed in on another challenge to New Hampshire voting rights.
Judge Charles Temple ordered that New Hampshire Senate Bill 3, which tightens ID and paperwork requirements to register to vote, can go into effect. Temple did, however, block the severe financial and legal penalties of the bill, calling them “a very serious deterrent on the right to vote, and if there is indeed a ‘compelling’ need for them, the Court has yet to see it.”