As Delegation Calls For Him to Step Down, N.H. Sec. of State Says He'll Stay on Trump Election Panel

Sep 8, 2017

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan called on Secretary of State Bill Gardner to resign from President Trump’s voting commission, after the chair of that same commission wrote a Breitbart column casting doubt on the outcome of last November’s election results in New Hampshire.

"Secretary Gardner's association with this partisan commission risks tarnishing his long legacy of fighting for the New Hampshire Primary and promoting voter participation," the senators wrote in a joint statement released Thursday night, "and it would be in keeping with his distinguished record to immediately relinquish any role with this commission."

After Shaheen and Hassan issued their statement, Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter echoed with their own calls for the secretary to step away from the commission.

Gardner, however, said he has no such plans.

“I’m not going to quit from a committee because I don’t agree with some people. And I don’t think that they’ve ever done it themselves,” Gardner said. “Maybe they have. But if they haven’t themselves, it’s hypocritical to say that to me.”

The senators’ call for Gardner’s resignation from the panel came after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach used newly released data about the number of out-of-state IDs used in last year’s election to argue that out-of-staters could have illegitimately tipped the election in Democrats’ favor. Kobach is co-chair of the panel and will lead a meeting of the group at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics next week.

“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 in his column. “Now there’s proof.”

Kobach cited a new report released Thursday that included figures from Gardner’s office and the Department of Safety, which noted about 6,500 people registered to vote last November using an out-of-state license, and about 5,300 of those people have not yet obtained a New Hampshire license or in-state car registration in the months since.

In the column, Kobach cites state laws requiring new residents to obtain a license within 60 days of moving here — but he doesn’t make note of the fact that New Hampshire law allows out-of-state IDs as a valid form of identification when registering to vote, or the possibility that these out-of-state IDs could be explained in part by out-of-state college students exercising their legal right to vote in New Hampshire.

As of Friday morning, Gardner said he had not read the column, and Kobach had not consulted with him before publishing it. Asked about Kobach’s use of the data to argue that voter fraud did take place in New Hampshire, Gardner said “it’s opinion.”

“People are going to have opinions, and other people have opinions, like the two senators saying there’s nothing to this,” Gardner said. “That may be. I don’t know.”

The data in the report Kobach cited, Gardner said, doesn’t provide proof that voter fraud took place last year — but the secretary said it’s not enough to rule out any fraud at all.

“We have some factual information that’s been released. That factual information does not provide proof. I’ve also said I don’t have proof there’s widespread voter fraud, but that doesn’t mean that there might not be. It’s just that I don’t have proof,” Gardner said. “Well, how do you get to the proof? It’s by way of the facts.”

Gardner said he does have “concerns” about some of the data, but it will take more investigation to determine whether there were in fact any cases of wrongful voting in last year’s elections. The secretary said he would discuss the issue with Kobach at next week’s meeting.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that people are saying you can’t even have dialogue anymore, you can’t even try to get to the facts,” Gardner said. “That’s the only way we’re going to resolve this.”