Senators want New Hampshire secretary of state to leave Trump voter panel

BY    | Updated: Sep 8, 2017 at 4:25 PM
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner answers a question in his office at the State House in Concord, New Hampshire December 17, 2014. As New Hampshire braces for another wave of White House hopefuls next year seeking votes in the first-in-the-nation nominating primary, much of the credit for the state's hold on that position goes to one man: Secretary of State William Gardner. Picture taken December 17, 2014. To match Feature USA-POLITICS/NEWHAMPSHIRE REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - GM1EACJ174M01

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner says he won’t step down from President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud despite calls from the state’s U.S. senators to do so. File photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

CONCORD, N.H. —New Hampshire’s secretary of state said Friday he will remain on an advisory commission to President Donald Trump though he disagrees with voter fraud allegations made by the panel’s vice chairman about his state.

All four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation called on fellow Democrat and Secretary of State Bill Gardner to step down from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in response to a Breitbart column by Republican Kris Kobach published Thursday.

Kobach, commission vice chairman and Kansas secretary of state, said newly released data about how many people failed to get New Hampshire driver’s licenses after using out-of-state licenses for voter registration is proof of fraud that likely led to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan’s victory over Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte in November.

“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. “Now there’s proof.”

READ MORE: What could Trump’s election commission do with voter data?

The “proof” Kobach referred to was data showing that of the 6,540 people who registered to vote in New Hampshire on Election Day in November using out-of-state driver’s licenses, only 15 percent had acquired New Hampshire licenses by this month. But state law allows someone to be domiciled in New Hampshire for voting purposes and be a resident of another state for driver’s licensing purposes — for example, students attending college in New Hampshire.

Democrats accused Kobach of misleading the public by using irrelevant data to rehash false claims.

“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,” Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement.

Gardner, the nation’s longest-serving secretary of state, countered by questioning whether the senators quit committees they’re assigned to in Congress because they disagree with other members.

“Are they going to refuse to participate in anything? Don’t they try to deal with it? Don’t they try to have a dialogue,” he said.

Shaheen’s spokesman, Ryan Nickel, responded that legislative committees include elected officials from both parties debating important issues, while Trump’s commission is “made up of Trump appointees charged with reaching a pre-determined partisan conclusion.”

Gardner said he doesn’t condone Kobach’s claims but will remain on the commission because it’s important to figure out why Americans are losing trust in the election process.

Gardner said he doesn’t condone Kobach’s claims but will remain on the commission because it’s important to figure out why Americans are losing trust in the election process. Nothing less than the fate of American democracy is at stake, he said.

“Democracies go away when people no longer trust the very basic part of democracy, which is the ability to cast a vote for the people you want to represent you,” he said. “If they lose faith in that process, it goes away. That’s how democracies die.”

Trump created the commission in May to investigate allegations — offered without evidence — that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. The president also has claimed he lost New Hampshire in November because thousands of people came by bus from other states to vote against him.

READ MORE: A Trump commission requested voter data. Here’s what every state is saying.

The commission, which is meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday, has requested any records considered public by states, including driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers, though no state is supplying every item on the list and some are refusing to comply altogether. New Hampshire is sending millions of scanned, unsearchable images of public voter data: names, addresses, party affiliations and whether someone has voted.

Gardner said critics should not rush to judgment.

“Judge it when it’s over. Don’t try to destroy it before it even has a chance to begin, because if we can’t get to the facts … then we’ve missed an opportunity, and it’s just slash and burn,” he said. “I want the facts to speak for themselves in this. I would really like to get to the facts, and I would like to get there by whatever means it’s going to take.”

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