Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has come under fire from Democratic members of the election integrity commission he leads for his unsubstantiated claim that the New Hampshire Senate race may have been tipped by out-of-state voters casting illegal votes.
Kobach, who serves as vice chair of Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, wrote a column last week for the far-right Breitbart website claiming “proof” of voter fraud that hinged on more than 5,300 who registered to vote on the day of the 2016 election but have not registered a car or got a driver’s license in the state.
“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.”
Kobach, who is running for governor of Kansas, qualified that claim Tuesday at the second meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Since his column published last week, he has said some of those 5,313 votes may comply under New Hampshire’s election law, which allows those who are “domiciled” in the state to vote.
The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website defines domicile as, “that one place where a person, more than any other place, has established a physical presence and manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence for domestic, social, and civil purposes relevant to participating in democratic self-government.” That page is geared at college students from other states, who are allowed to vote in New Hampshire.
“Until further research is done and until you make the next cut to determine how many are non-domiciled and then the final cut to actually determine how they voted, we will never know the answer regarding the legitimacy of that particular election,” Kobach said.
Kobach’s column, based on data from the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, did not say whether those voters had also voted in another state.
“New Hampshire faces risks that other states do not face,” Kobach said.
New Hampshire’s Democratic secretary of state, Bill Gardner, criticized that claim. He said under state election law, domiciled residents don’t have to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license.
“The problem that has occurred because of what you wrote is the question of whether the election, as we have recorded it, is real and valid,” Gardner said. “And it is real and valid.”
Gardner said he thought the state’s Legislature was doing a good job addressing any confusion between voting by residents and those domiciled in the state. A new law in New Hampshire went into effect last week adding requirement that voters provide documents that prove where they live if they are registering to vote within 30 days of an election, according to New Hampshire Public Radio. A Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge allowed the law to go into effect in a decision Tuesday but blockedassociated penalties.
Gardner said he thought Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission but did not attend the meeting Tuesday, made it “very clear” that the commission should work without preconceived ideas about the prevalence and significance of voter fraud.
“That is something that we all need to stay focused on, and this — I hope we all learn from this,” Gardner said of Kobach’s column.
Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, also criticized Kobach’s claims. He said he did not think motor vehicle law and election law were interconnected. He said voting is a right while driving is a privilege.
“Making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver’s licenses 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,” Dunlap said. “I think it’s a reckless statement to make.”
Kobach’s spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, said he stood by his column after the meeting.
The commission met Tuesday to hear panels on voter confidence and turnout, integrity issues that affect confidence and the security of electronic voting systems. Kobach has called it the first meeting of significant substance.
Andrew Smith, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, shared data regarding turnout across states from various elections. He said turnout has dropped nationally since the 1960s and that turnout can vary for various reasons.
Other presenters claimed evidence of voter fraud, such as voter registration rolls that are larger than the state population.
John Lott, president of the crime prevention research center, proposed requiring background checks for voter registrants. He proposed using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which checks whether a prospective gun buyer can own a firearm, and said Democrats claim the program works well for gun purchases.
“It might be a way that Democrats can use a system which they claim works very well to go and essentially prove to Republicans in a sense that there is not fraud,” Lott said.
Trump established the commission in May after claiming without evidence that he lost the popular vote in the fall election because of 3 to 5 million illegal voters. The commission drew criticism this summer when it requested voter roll data from each state, including personal information if available under state law.
Kobach has claimed as many as 18,000 people might be wrongfully registered in Kansas, and he said his office has identified 128 non-citizens who have attempted to register to vote. Since he gained prosecutorial power in 2015, he has obtained nine convictions for illegal votes. He announced charges in two new cases last month.