N.H. Sec. of State Goes to D.C. for Inaugural Meeting of Trump Election Commission

Jul 18, 2017

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Secretary of State Bill Gardner is on his way to Washington to participate in the first official meeting of the Trump administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, scheduled for Wednesday.

Gardner and other members participated in a phone conference last month, but Wednesday’s meeting will mark the first time the group meets in person.

Meanwhile, the commission’s work — and more specifically, its request several weeks ago that states turn over voter information — has already stirred up court battles at both the state and federal levels.

In New Hampshire, the local branch of the ACLU and a pair of state legislators sought earlier this month to block Gardner from sharing state voter files with the commission. That lawsuit has since been put on hold in light of other lawsuits playing out against the commission at the federal level.

Those federal lawsuits against the commission include a challenge from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and another from the national branch of the ACLU.

Asked Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office wasn’t able to immediately confirm who is paying for Gardner’s travel to Washington as part of his role on the commission.

Gardner, one of five Democrats on the 12-member commission, has defended the panel’s work as a possible solution for growing public mistrust around the country’s election systems.

“I don’t want to go in with preconceived ideas," Gardner told NHPR in an earlier interview. "I want to do a great deal of listening and I’ve been a strong believer over the years that a voter system that the public has confidence in, is a voting system that garners high turnout."

Gardner’s garnered criticism for both his participation in the commission and his initial decision to cooperate with the commission’s request for state voter data.

In other states, voters have reportedly been asking to have their names removed from state voter files en masse.

In New Hampshire, the Secretary of State’s office was flooded with calls from voters concerned about their information being shared with the commission in the days after Gardner first said he would comply. Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said the office has seen “an uptick in voter requests to have their name removed recently” but no such removals have actually happened — because state law doesn’t allow it.

“State statute does not have provisions to permit a person to voluntarily remove their name from the voter checklist,” Scanlan wrote in an email. “A name can only be removed by the supervisors of the checklist if a voter moves, passes away, is convicted of a felony or is removed (after proper notice) through a purge for at least 4 years of voting inactivity.”