Kobach Catches Flak From Fellow Commissioners Over Voter Fraud Claims

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, right, introduces one of the speakers at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 in Manchester, NH. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, center, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, left, also attend. Gardner opened the meeting by defending his participation and the panel’s existence, saying it hasn’t yet reached any conclusion. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)
Holly Ramer/AP
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Kris Kobach may have thought he had a slam dunk case when he showed up in New Hampshire Tuesday to claim mass voter fraud. Instead, he found himself getting dunked on — by both the members of the voter fraud commission he’s leading, and the witnesses who testified at its meeting — who bashed him for screwing up basic facts of New Hampshire’s elections law and accused him of jumping to conclusions.

Kobach, a leading proponent of restrictive voting laws who is the Republican secretary of state in Kansas and the vice chair of President Trump’s voter fraud commission, recently claimed New Hampshire was the site of enough voter fraud to have potentially swung the state’s 2016 election results. That didn’t play well in New Hampshire, where the commission’s second meeting happened to be held.

Before the start of the day’s second panel, Kobach attempted to tamp down some of his initial allegations, which came in the form of a Breitbart op-ed where he wrote that “Now there’s proof” of significant voter fraud in New Hampshire. But even before that, Kobach’s claims had been undercut by the testimony of a witness during the first panel who explained New Hampshire’s requirements to vote.

Once Kobach brought up the wildly speculative voter fraud allegations himself, he got pushback from some of the commission’s own members.

“The problem that has occurred because of what you wrote is that the question of whether our election, as we have recorded, is real and valid – and it is real and valid,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) said, getting applause from the meeting’s audience.

Kobach’s Breitbart op-ed was based on data released last week showing that 6,540 New Hampshire voters used an out-of-state ID when taking take advantage of same-day voter registration last year. The data, released by New Hampshire’s GOP state House speaker, showed that 5,526 of those voters had not obtained a New Hampshire driver’s license since registering, prompting Kobach to claim in his Breitbart op-ed that “it appears that they are not actually residing in New Hampshire” and “that they never were bona fide residents of the State.”

Commission member J. Christian Adams blogged about the data as well, drawing a similar conclusion, while commission member Hans von Spakovsky touted it in a presentation he gave the commission Tuesday.

The problem with this logic is that, while New Hampshire requires those claiming residency in the state to replace their out-of -state driver license’s with a New Hampshire ID, residency is not required to vote. Domicile is the standard there, as  University of New Hampshire political science professor Andrew Smith, a witness at Tuesday’s commission meeting, explained while alluding to the state’s population of college students.

It is legal in New Hampshire for you to have a Massachusetts driver’s license and Massachusetts plates on your car and pay out-of-state tuition to the university and still be eligible to vote because you are domiciled in New Hampshire, meaning you spend most of your nights here,” Smith said during the first panel.

Kobach later tried to clarify his initial allegations, explaining right before the second panel was set to get underway that he “struggled with the word—what verb to use.”

“Particularly in the column, I said it ‘appears’ that non-residents may have tipped the results and I am still wondering if that’s the right word,” Kobach said. “And I’m wondering if it’s even possible to condense what is really a complex legal issue into a 800-word column.”

That explanation wasn’t enough to prevent a scolding from Gardner, the state’s top elections official, who has come under considerable pressure to resign from the commission.

You actually mentioned resident twice when you really should have said domicile, just now,” Gardner said. He went on to bring up the remarks by Vice President Mike Pence at the commission’s first meeting where Pence, its chair, said the commission would not have “preordained” ideas.

Those numbers, even though they’re facts—what they are, they’re fact—but those facts don’t create proof,” Gardner said.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) also took a swing at Kobach for jumping to conclusions with the New Hampshire data.

“Making this equation — that somehow, people not updating their driver’s licenses is indicator of voter fraud — would be almost as absurd as saying if you have cash in your wallet that that’s proof that you robbed a bank.,” Dunlap said. “I think that’s a reckless statement to make”

When it came time for von Spavosky to give his presentation — the slides of which were posted by the White House last Friday — he pivoted from the claims to a call for more investigation.

“Are they still registered in that other state? And more importantly, did they not only vote in New Hampshire, taking advantage of the same-day registration option, but did they also vote in that other state in the last election in November?” he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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