Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) generated a bevy of criticism for the voter fraud commission that he’s vice-chairing last week by jumping on a wildly speculative claim that New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential and Senate elections may have been swung by nonresidents pouring into the Granite State to take advantage of its same-day voter registration.
When President Trump’s so-called “elections integrity” commission gathers in New Hampshire on Tuesday for its second meeting, it appears ready to double down on those widely-mocked allegations, judging by presentations planned for the meeting and posted by the White House on Friday evening.
Kobach’s allegations were based on data released by New Hampshire’s GOP-controlled state House, showing that 5,513 out of the 6,540 voters who showed an out-of-state ID when using same-day registration last November have not gone on to get drivers licenses or register vehicles since.
The state’s House speaker, Shawn Jasper, said in his letter to state officials seeking the data that he intended to use it to help the legislature “in assessing the current election laws and any legislation to change those laws in the upcoming session.” His office said there was no coordination between the legislature and the commission in seeking the data or releasing its report.
Kobach touted the data Thursday in an op-ed for Breitbart, where he is a paid columnist, alleging that the state hosting the commission’s meeting this week was the site of “more than enough” illegal voting in 2016 “to swing the election.”
“It seems,” Kobach wrote, that the 5,513 voters “are not actually residing in New Hampshire” and were “never were bona fide residents of the State.”
A fellow commission member, J. Christian Adams, also blogged about the data, arguing that it meant that “the overwhelming majority” of those out-of-state ID holders “can no longer be found in New Hampshire.”
A Washington Times article coming to similar conclusions was tweeted out by a spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission.
BREAKING: More than 5,000 New Hampshire presidential voters may not live in state – https://t.co/Bd1lLX0wn0 – @washtimes
— Marc Lotter (@VPPressSec) September 7, 2017
It didn’t take long for the debunkers to roll in. One Washington Post writer called Kobach’s column a “failing freshman logic paper.”
There’s nothing illegal about using an out-of-state ID to register to vote under New Hampshire law. The requirements for residency alluded to by Kobach and others are necessary for securing a driver’s license in the state, but aren’t necessary to vote there. Instead, the state only requires that one has a domicile in New Hampshire to vote, and a new law requires registering voters to show proof such as a utility bill.
A New Hampshire Public Radio analysis of the data revealed that those out-of-state ID holders were, not surprisingly, mostly clustered in college towns, which could explain why they didn’t have Granite State driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations.
The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel said it only took him about an hour to find and contact legitimate New Hampshire voters who used out-of-state IDs to register last year.
The claims have put one of the commission’s few Democrats and the host of Tuesday’s meeting, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, in an awkward position. By Friday morning the state’s U.S. congressional delegation, all Democrats, were calling for Gardner to resign from the voter fraud commission.
Gardner has since said that he doesn’t agree with Kobach’s claims, but argued that doesn’t mean he needs to step down from the panel, as he pushed back at the Democrats’ request.
“No, I’m not going to step down, and it’s hypocritical to ask me to step down as a member of a federal commission,” Gardner told WMUR. “Have they ever stepped down from a Senate committee or a committee that they serve on because they disagreed with someone on the committee?”
Even before Kobach began touting the New Hampshire claims, Granite State politicos of both parties were grumbling about Gardner’s presence on the commission, as TPM previously reported. The materials slated for Tuesday’s meetings that were posted by the White House aren’t likely to make them feel any better.
Jasper’s correspondence with state officials about the data are among the materials posted, as is the report on them that he released last week.
The stats are also touted on a slide show being presented by GOP commission member Hans von Spakovsky, who has a reputation for pushing misleading claims about voter fraud.
The question now is whether these claims will get pushback from the other commission members or witnesses at the meeting. One of the witnesses slated to testify, University of New Hampshire professor Andrew Smith, told ProPublica Friday that Kobach is misinterpreting the law, and that he’d say as much if asked on Tuesday.
Notably, at least two Democrats on the commission—Alan King, an Alabama probate judge, and Mark Rhodes, a county clerk in West Virginia—will not be present at Tuesday’s meeting due to scheduling conflicts, HuffPost’s Sam Levine reported.
King, in a statement posted on the White House commission website ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, said the commission “should be expanding the rights of our citizens to vote, instead of arguably look for ways to keep people from voting.”