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Trump’s Sham Commission On Voting Integrity Meets In New Hampshire

Yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity convened their second official meeting at St. Anslem College, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The group, led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, who is currently the Kansas Secretary of State, continued to take aim at our voting rights.

Kobach gained local notoriety over the past week as he made the claim that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because of thousands of illegal votes from out of state residents. He claimed that because 3,000 people voted in NH with out of state licenses that their votes were examples of voter fraud. The claim was quickly debunked due to the fact that NH does not require voters to have NH drivers license or to register their automobile with the state in order to legally vote.

“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “This Commission has no claim to credibility after failing to condemn last week’s out-and-out lies from Vice Chair Kris Kobach about our state’s voters. Granite Staters should consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”

“Study after study, report and report, and even previous commissions have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and always very isolated,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. “That is proof that the current protections are working, but we have policies and technologies in place to allow us to facilitate the participation in the political process to more and more citizens. We have a moral obligation to do that.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently serving the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C, submitted written testimony to the commission.

In her testimony, Senator Shaheen condemns the commission’s clear intention to make it more difficult for Granite Staters to vote, writing, “The truth is that, here in New Hampshire and across the nation, voter fraud is extremely rare. I am deeply concerned that falsehoods about illegal voting are being spread as a pretext for restricting access to the ballot box. This risks disenfranchising eligible voters and undermining faith in our democracy.”

“Granite Staters take pride in our state’s brand of open and direct democracy, which encourages maximum participation, including by college students and active-duty members of the military who live in our state.  It is not the New Hampshire way to make voting unnecessarily difficult or to target specific groups of voters with deliberately onerous ID laws,” Shaheen wrote.

Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen in submitting legislation to disband the commission.

“I am deeply concerned that since its inception President Trump’s voting commission has attempted to mislead voters and erode trust in the voting process by pushing misleading claims that have been debunked time and again. It is clear that this commission is simply a partisan exercise to lay the groundwork for new attempts at voter suppression, which is why I joined Senator Shaheen in cosponsoring a bill to disband the commission.”

“President Trump’s voter commission has been formed with the predetermined conclusion that voter fraud is a widespread problem and that restrictive voter ID laws are necessary to safeguard our democracy,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is despite the fact there is no evidence of such fraud. Rather than protecting our democracy, voter suppression efforts threaten to undermine the legitimate right of people to exercise their self-determination at the ballot box.”

Kuster added, “The accusations levied by Secretary Kobach are an insult to thousands of local officials and volunteers, both Republican and Democrat, who ensure our free and fair elections in New Hampshire and make the Granite State worthy of being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

“Our elected officials should be working to facilitate civic involvement and build voter participation, especially amongst college students and younger voters,” said St. Anselm student Olivia Teixeira on behalf of the NH Young Democrats. “Instead, with sham commissions like the one meeting today on my campus and through bills like SB 3, Republican’s are using baseless lies of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress voter turnout.”

“If we want to  attract and retain young people to our state, we should be working to empower younger voters to take part in our state’s proud democratic process by advocating for modernizing our voting systems and registration,” Teixeira added.

Aside from the continued discussion on the non-existent voter fraud problem the commission also discussed possible solutions to “strengthen” the integrity of the election process.

At one point, John Lott, a right-wing shill, proposed the idea of using the same background check system we currently use to buy firearms to verify a voters’ eligibility.  Lott is new to “voting rights” advocates however he is well know in “gun rights” circles.  Even before Lott presented his skewed testimony, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a warning, not to believe Lott’s “fuzzy math.”

“Lott’s statistical analysis includes far too many variables and controls – a tell-tale sign of statistical chicanery,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.

Additionally, Commission member and former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, suggested that long lines at the polls were a “good strategy.” This is the same man who “distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters.”

“Today, we met the various characters who decorate Trump’s sham commission. Unfortunately, their fringe conspiratorial thinking is not a caricature but an understatement,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley. “From absurd proposals to run registered voters through background checks to one commission member calling the creation of long voting lines a ‘good strategy’ to Kobach re-asserting his claim of voter fraud in New Hampshire, it’s clear this commission has an agenda, the focus of which is voter suppression. Kobach showed he was willing to lie to the Granite Staters’ faces about New Hampshire law and embarrass Secretary Gardner in his own state by delegitimizing election results.”

“This is a commission that welcomes, absorbs, and operates in conspiracy. President Trump is getting his way when this commission entertains baseless voter fraud claims, muddying the waters and creating uncertainty and distrust in our election system.” Buckley added.

Outside, over a hundred people gathered to protest Trump’s “sham commission.” Among the protesters were members of the NH Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of New Hampshire, America Votes, the NAACP, Granite State Progress, Mayday.US, and the national group Let America Vote.

The protests also garnered a special appearance from Cleanup Carl. “Cleanup Carl is a 12 ft tall superhero for democracy. Committed to taking on the dirty villains trying to destroy our democracy with their toxic anti-voter influence.” Cleanup Carl is project of grassroots democracy organization MAYDAY America.

“This commission is the real threat. It’s a toxic mix for our democracy!” said Cleanup Carl through his spokesperson MAYDAY National Campaign Director Chris Tallent. “New Hampshire residents and Americans should take caution! Some of the most dangerous contaminants known to democracy, Kris Kobach, Mike Pence, and the rest of the sham ‘election integrity’ commission will be in New Hampshire this morning to try to advance their dirty agenda. That’s a volatile mix for democracy! Time to clean ‘em out of our democracy and uphold the right for everyone’s voice to be heard!”

Many of the people outside were also calling on NH’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, to resign from this “sham” commission.

“One thing is clear: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t belong with this cast of conspiratorial misfits,” said Buckley. “He has carried out free and fair elections for over four decades and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive, incorrect and dangerous. Gardner cannot risk sullying New Hampshire’s sterling reputation by remaining on a commission that is willing to travel to our state to insult us in service of a baseless conspiracy designed to suppress votes.”

Gardner, who is currently the longest serving Secretary of State, is “being used by the Trump/Pence sham commission,” said a group of New Hampshire Voters who recently started a petition calling for Gardner to resign his position in the commission.

In response to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, the Democratic National Committee joined with allies and created the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The DNC held a press call to explain how the Trump administration’s voter fraud commission is working to suppress the fundamental democratic rights of Americans and to lay out the steps that Democrats are taking to fight back.

“Make no mistake: this isn’t a war on voter fraud, it’s a war on voters. And it’s only being waged by Republicans, and we will not let our guard down for a moment.  As Democrats, our goal is the engage every eligible American voter as an active participant in our democracy,” said Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC. “We want to make it easier for people who are eligible to vote, not harder for them to vote.  And that means fighting voter suppression tactics to create free, fair, and accessible elections.  We must protect the one right that preserves all others—the right to vote.”

“Instead of building themselves around policies that reach out to communities like minorities and low incomes folks and the elderly and the disabled, instead of doing that, they’re just going to exclude those folks from democracy.  That’s their solution.  And it’s cynical, and it’s wrong, and it’s un-American,” Jason Kander, Chair of the DNC commission, former Missouri Secretary of State, and President of Let America Vote. “We’ve had this argument before in America.  Folks marched across a bridge, American heroes did, in Selma.  And they faced batons, they faced down dogs and hoses, and it was all for the simple idea that in America everybody counts.  We shouldn’t go backward.  We should only go forward on these issues.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed public comments outlining the glaring problems with the Commission including its lack of ideological diversity or commitment to transparency in accordance with federal law.

“Today’s Commission meeting in New Hampshire lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination that we know prevents racial minorities from voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Instead, Kris Kobach and his colleagues continued marshaling data in misleading ways to continue building a false narrative that voter fraud exists.  This myth has been widely discredited, and yet we listened to commissioners reiterate these claims in ways that proved truly irresponsible.”

“Today’s Commission meeting must be viewed in the context of a Justice Department that has all but abandoned its obligation to enforce laws that would eliminate voting discrimination.  The Commission is part of the administration’s broader agenda to promote national policies that would make it harder for minority communities to vote,” Clarke concluded.

Stop Lying About Non Existent Voter Fraud In New Hampshire

“Voter fraud is rampant in New Hampshire elections.  Busloads of people are coming from Massachusetts to vote in our elections.”  

Trump said it. Governor Chris Sununu said it. Right wing advocates said it. So it must be true, right?

No.  Nationally over the past 16 years there has only been 35 cases of voter fraud out of the more than one billion ballots cast. This includes the four cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

Of course right-wing extremists need a new way to suppress voter turnout and disenfranchise voters in the hopes that their new Voter ID laws and “domicile” mandates will keep left leaning voters from the ballot box.

This week, Trump’s Voting Integrity commission will be meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday September 12th.  Prior to his visit to NH, Kris Kobach posted an Op-Ed in Breitbart claiming that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because thousands of people with out-of-state licenses voted in the NH election.

Kobach is doing three things with this statement:

  1. He is perpetuating the lie that “busloads of out-of-state voters” are coming to NH to vote.
  2. Trying to make a case against “same-day voter registration,”  a right-wing priority item for years.
  3. Showing his complete ignorance to our voting laws.

A litany of people from both sides of the aisle have pushed back on this claim that “busloads of out-of-state voters” voted in the election, including: Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewindowski, Former NHGOP Chair Fergus Cullen, Former NH Attorney General Tom Rath, NH Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano, and even New Hampshire’s own Secretary of State, Bill Gardner denied these claims.

Claims of voter fraud have also been debunked by PolitifactFactCheck.orgWashington PostNew York Times, and the Boston Globe.

The right-wing has been working hard for decades to make it harder for people to vote.  They have been eyeing same-day voter registration for many years.  There is no denying that thousands of Granite Staters use this to register on voting day.  Typically these are young people who move a lot or are not generally involved in politics until major elections, like the Presidential election.

Of course these people tend to vote democratic and that is why the right-wing has been pushing to eliminate it.  If we had an easier way like, motor-voter registration or online voter registrations, there would more than likely be a significant drop in same-day voter registration. This would also greatly reduce the long lines in polling places that can dissuade eligible voters from casting their ballots.

Kobach clearly does not understand our voting laws.  In fact, he is confusing people about what is legal and what is “voter fraud.”  There is no legal requirement for a voter to have a NH drivers license or to register your car to vote in New Hampshire.

Dean Spilioties, civic scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at Southern New Hampshire University, explained to NH Public Radio exactly how NH’s voting laws are written.

“Under the law, you can be domiciled here for purposes of voting but be a resident of another state… Where the out-of-state licenses were typically used is typically places like Durham, Hanover, Manchester. So those folks, if you’re a college student, you know, from an out-of-state – enrolled in a New Hampshire university or college, you are perfectly within the law to register to vote on election day or whenever with your out-of-state driver’s license and there’s no requirement that you then upgrade that license to a New Hampshire license at any time.”

NHPR’s News Director Dan Barrick agreed with Spilioties and added, “So there’s absolutely no evidence that, of those 5,000 plus people who voted with an out-of-state license… cast illegal ballots. There’s absolutely no evidence of that at all. And any implication is just really irresponsible.”

The Washington Post followed up on Kobach’s statement and spoke with NH college students who legally voted with an out-of-state drivers license.

“I was a student at Saint Anselm College in Manchester until I graduated this past May, and because I spent most of my time in the state I felt it was right I vote there instead of my native state of New York,” said Patrick Derenze, 22, who used his New York ID to vote.

New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner was tapped to be a part of Trump’s voting integrity commission, however many people are calling for him to leave the commission now as it has become evident that the commission is about finding evidence to prove the false statement that America has a voter fraud problem.

All four of New Hampshire’s elected Congressional Representatives are calling for Gardner to step down from the commission.

“Kris Kobach is deceiving the public in a desperate attempt to justify his sham Commission’s existence and back the President’s false claims – at the expense of our state and faith in our democratic process,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  “I ask all public officials in New Hampshire to join me in condemning these dangerous lies, and I call on Secretary of State Gardner to immediately resign his seat on the Commission.”

“From the beginning, President Trump’s voter commission has been nothing more than a partisan sham to justify voter suppression laws,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This latest absurd attempt to sow uncertainty in New Hampshire’s election results is consistent with Kris Kobach and the commission’s efforts to use deceptive data to question the integrity of our elections. Undermining confidence in our democratic process is irresponsible and dangerous. I urge New Hampshire Secretary of State Gardner to condemn this most recent claim and end his participation in President Trump’s voter commission.”

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan issued a joint statement calling for Gardner to resign his position on the commission.

“It has been clear since its inception that President Trump’s voting commission is an attempt to grossly mislead voters and lay the groundwork for broad-scale, politically motivated voter suppression. Now, the head of President Trump’s misguided commission is using deceiving and irrelevant data to rehash the same false claims that have been debunked time and again by independent analysis and members of both parties in New Hampshire. The law clearly states that college students and other New Hampshire residents can vote without a New Hampshire ID, and these false partisan claims are deliberately twisting the facts. 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.”

Gardner told The Associated Press on Friday that he will not step down because, “it’s important to figure out why Americans are losing trust in the election process.”

The answer to that question is simple: Because people keep hearing lies from prominent officials, like our President and our Governor, who say massive voter fraud exists despite any real evidence of fraud.

This is the same tactic the right-wing has been using to deny climate change. They use one report that denies the science and claim that “the results are unclear” or “the facts are in dispute.”

The facts clearly show that voter fraud is not the problem in New Hampshire but yet Trump, Sununu and Kobach continue to make false claims that it does.

If you want to strengthen the “integrity” of our voting system then let’s make some real changes. Make voter registration automatic, so when you move or buy a new home, you will automatically be registered to vote.  Make in-person voting more that a one-day event.  Have early voting locations where people can vote prior to election day open on weekdays and weekends.  Even better, let’s move to a vote by mail system, where your ballot is automatically mailed to you and you can either mail it back, or drop it off at a specified location, prior to election day.

Oregon passed a motor voter law and conducted voting by mail and they had over 70% of the eligible voters return a ballot.  Considering the national average is 55%, it appears they have found a way to increase voter turnout and protect their voting process by expanding voting rights.


The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights will be hosting a rally on Tuesday, Sept 12th, from 8am-10am at St Anslem College, where Trump’s voting commission is scheduled to meet.  More information here

Concerned Citizens Confront Secretary of State Gardner Over Information Provided To Election Commission

Today a group of concerned citizens traveled to Concord to have a frank discussion with New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner.  The group had serious concerns about the information being provided to the President’s “Election Integrity Commission” and what the information would be used for.

The commission sent a letter to all 50 states last week requesting them to release personally identifying voter information, which it will then make public. Gardner serves on the commission and last week stated he will give the voter file to the commission. The NH ACLU filed a lawsuit for a temporary injunction on the matter earlier today to prevent him from doing so.

Today when asked Gardner provided some new details into what the commission is doing and that he does not want to make this information public.

First, Gardner explained that Kobach issued a retraction letter, though he has not seen it yet.

 

Gardner went on to say that he does not approve of the ‘Election Integrity Commission’ plan to publicly distribute personal voter data.

“I will make sure that that information is not gonna be put in the public domain,” said Gardner.

It is clear that Gardner shares the concerns of these fellow Granite Staters.

 

The big question is: What does Kris Kobach want to do with this information?  Does Kobach plan to give this information to President Trump?

One Granite Stater asked, “Can you guarantee the current administration won’t be using that database in any way, shape, or form?”

Gardner responded, “We’ll have these discussions when there’s the first meeting,” implying he still does not know what the information is being gathered for.

Mo Baxley of Laconia then asked, “And you won’t turn over the information until those conversations.”

Gardner stated, “I want to make sure that this is not in the public domain, and what the guarantees are for that, and I expect that that is the case, and before it gets turned over, I will make sure that I’m satisfied that, that, that’s the case.”

 


Special Thanks to Granite State Progress for capturing all of this exchange on video.

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Press releases online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.

ACLU of NH Sues To Block Secretary Of State From Disclosing Statewide Voter Information

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire today sued to bar the New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner from illegally disclosing statewide information concerning New Hampshire voters.  The complaint can be found attached below.

On Friday, June 30, 2017, Secretary Gardner agreed to produce to the recently-created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (the “Commission”) statewide information concerning over 984,000 registered voters’ names, domicile and mailing addresses, and party affiliation, if any. This response ignored New Hampshire laws that place strict and binding requirements on how the State is to produce voter information.  (See RSA 654:31)

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of voter information for good reason: to protect voter privacy,” stated Representative Neal Kurk (R-NH), a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “These protections would be rendered meaningless by the transfer of this data to the Commission, which has established no security protocols and intends to post everything it receives online.”

Representative Kurk was involved in the crafting of the relevant statutes under RSA 654:31, which limit the prospect of mass dissemination of this statewide voter information in order to ensure that statewide voter information is only used for political purposes, not for commercial gain. (RSA 654:31(VI) explicitly prohibits voter information from being used for commercial purposes.)

“The Secretary of State has no statutory authority to release a copy of the statewide public checklist to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office,” stated Senator Betty Lasky (D-NH), another plaintiff in the case.

RSA 654:31(II)-(III) only allows requesters to: (i) view the statewide public checklist on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center during normal business hours where requesters are prohibited from printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data and (ii) obtain hard copies of the public checklist from local municipalities on a town-by-town/ward-by-ward basis at a fee of at least $25 per municipality or ward.

“The Commission is not entitled to special, unwritten exemptions from the Secretary of State that circumvent New Hampshire law,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “He must apply the law to the Commission no differently than he would apply the law to a regular member of the public seeking this information.”

The lawsuit, Kurk v. Gardner, seeks to bar the Secretary of State from disclosing this information without full compliance with New Hampshire law. It was filed in Hillsborough Superior Court South.

FINAL Filed Complaint (1)

Trump’s Sham Committee On Voter Fraud Brings In The Secretary’s of State From NH And KS

The NH Young Democrats and The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law speak out against Trump’s new executive order to investigate unfounded claims of voter fraud.

Following the shocking news that President Trump signed an executive order establishing the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” and that Secretary of State William Gardner will participate on the commission, House Election Law Committee member Representative Isaac Epstein released the following statement on behalf of the NHYD:

“Every voter in New Hampshire should be alarmed that President Trump has cooked up this sham commission. This is a clumsy distraction to justify the President’s ridiculous lies about fake voter fraud here in our own state. Serious leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Secretary of State Gardner, have all dismissed these absurd allegations.

We appreciate Secretary Gardner’s many years of service to the State of New Hampshire, but we have real concerns about his participation in this commission. Specifically, we are concerned by his outspoken support for Senate Bill 3 which was introduced to address the very perceptions of voter fraud that President Trump and Governor Sununu have fabricated.

If Secretary Gardner participates on this commission, we implore him to stand up for every Granite State voter and to reject the Trump administration’s lies about massive voter fraud. Further, we beg him to only support conclusions that are based in fact and reality. As a public servant, Secretary Gardner’s top priority should be to protect the most fundamental right of every American – the right to vote.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, released the following statement Thursday in response to alarming reports that President Trump will launch a commission to review his unfounded claims of voter suppression.

According to reports, the commission will be co-led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a partisan advocate for voter suppression laws:

“In no uncertain terms we condemn the launch of this so-called Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.  President Trump is trying to create a distraction from actual threats to our democracy, such as ongoing voter suppression and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“When Attorney General Jeff Sessions led a similar effort as a former prosecutor in Alabama, it had a chilling effect on the black vote.  Now, President Trump is seeking the counsel of Kansas Secretary of State Kobach, who has a proven record of advocating for discriminatory and burdensome policies that prevent members of minority communities from exercising their right to vote.”

Report after report has shown that there is no voter fraud in New Hampshire and that Trump’s accusations of voter fraud are completely unfounded.  What is real is the partisan attack on voting rights and access to the ballot as Republicans say they are “tightening up the laws.”  These new restrictions will block assess to the ballot and suppress the vote.

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