On Question of Voter Fraud, Eight Months Make Quite a Difference for Sununu

Jul 10, 2017

Gov. Chris Sununu says turning over the state’s voter information (or, at least, what’s included in public voter checklists) to a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is a step toward restoring confidence in the nation’s elections.

But the governor has also been careful lately to tamp down suspicions that anything is amiss in New Hampshire.

“I’ve always said, we have no evidence of voter fraud in this state,” Sununu told NHPR’s The Exchange Monday morning. “We have none. I’ve never seen a bit of actual evidence of it.”

That’s a different tune than what Sununu was singing eight months ago.

"There's no doubt there's election fraud here." — Chris Sununu, Oct. 31, 2016

Just days before he was elected governor, in an interview with the Boston-based Howie Carr Show, then-candidate Sununu cast doubt on the legitimacy of New Hampshire elections, saying out-of-state voters are regularly "bussed" into the Granite State.

"I've always said, we have no evidence of voter fraud in this state." — Chris Sununu, July 10, 2017

“The Democrats got very sly. When they first took over in the late nineties and early 2000s, they changed the election law,” Sununu told Carr, when asked about the opposing party’s growing influence in the state. “We have same-day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re bussing them in all over the place.”

Sununu specifically pointed to instances where Democratic party leaders have allowed campaign staffers who bunked with them before an election to register to vote at those temporary addresses, a practice that — while the source of political debate — was not illegal under state law. 

"And I don’t want to use ‘rigged,’ you know that’s like the word you’re not supposed to use anymore,” Sununu added. “But they have really gamed the system in their advantage.”

Sununu also inaccurately attributes the same-day voter law to Democrats when, in fact, it was passed under a Republican-controlled administration.

In any case, within days, Sununu softened that assertion: He didn’t believe the Democrats were literally orchestrating busloads of out-of-state voters across the border to tip elections in their favor, but he did believe there were holes in the state’s election laws that didn’t sufficiently guard against such a practice.

“I don’t want to imply I see buses coming over,” Sununu clarified, when asked about the comments in a gubernatorial debate. “More of a figure of speech that people are coming over, they’re temporarily here, they vote and then they leave.”

Sununu’s rhetoric on election integrity has shifted in the months since he took office. Some excerpts from his appearances on NHPR:

  • In February: “Is there specific evidence of voter fraud that I know of? No there's not, there's not. Do we need to strengthen our voter laws? Yes, there's no doubt about that. We have a lot of ambiguity in our voter laws. I think there's a lot of areas where we can strengthen and more clearly define the laws to make sure that it is a clean process.” 
  • In March: “We have some of the loosest, most ambiguous voter laws in the country, yet we have the responsibility of the First in the Nation Primary. We have the responsibility of an incredibly smart voter electorate here in New Hampshire. We simply want to make sure that the system we take such pride in has the integrity that it deserves.”
  • In May: “Look, I’ve said on this show, many times: I have no evidence of voter fraud in the state of New Hampshire. I can only say it so many times.”

While the governor backed off of his original claims about “busing” voters across state lines, others have doubled down on the idea that New Hampshire was the site of widespread voter fraud — including President Trump and his advisors.

Those allegations, in turn, have been the backdrop for the creation of the same commission now requesting voter files from New Hampshire and other states. And that brought the issue back in front of Sununu, again, on Monday.

“We’re at a point where I think a lot of people are losing faith in the system nationally,” the governor said. “So there’s an idea, if there’s not an issue, let’s put that to rest. If there are issues, let’s address those. But you’re always going to have a lack of faith in the system until you do something one way or the other, either prove or disprove the unknown.”