Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the de facto leader of President Donald Trump’s effort to investigate voter fraud, wrote a wildly misleading op-ed Thursday claiming to have proof illegal votes swayed the outcome of past elections in New Hampshire.
Writing for the far-right website Breitbart, Kobach, the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, cited new data released by New Hampshire officials. The data shows that 6,540 people in the state used same-day voter registration with an out-of-state drivers license. New Hampshire gives new residents 60 days to get a driver’s license, but by the end of August 2017, the data showed, 5,313 of those people had not obtained a New Hampshire driver’s license or register a vehicle in the state.
Kobach, who has a history of exaggerating voter fraud, said the data signaled there was “proof” illegal votes could have swung the election in New Hampshire, noting that Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 2,732 votes in the state and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) defeated former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) by just over 1,000 votes.
His claim about voter fraud in New Hampshire comes just days before the commission is scheduled to meet there next week.
J. Christian Adams, another member of the committee, also seized on the data as evidence of widespread voter fraud. Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence, the commission’s chair, also tweeted a link to a story with the information.
“If the presidential contest had been closer and had come down to a margin of three or four electoral college votes, then this voter fraud might have had extraordinary consequences. Regardless, in the Senate contest, it is highly likely that voting by nonresidents changed the result,” Kobach wrote in his article.
But Kobach’s claim of fraud is flagrantly misleading. New Hampshire sets different qualifications for people to vote and to get a driver’s license. Under state law, not everyone who is qualified to vote is qualified to get a driver’s license.
To register to vote in New Hampshire, someone only needs to be “domiciled” there, meaning they currently live in the state and intend stay there for a definite period of time.
The definition allows people like college students, doctors completing their residency and military personnel who are stationed in the state to vote, Gilles Bissonnette, the legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire said in an email.
To get a driver’s license, however, a person must be categorized as a “resident.” According to the state, people are “residents” if they plan to remain in the state for an indefinite period of time.
The Washington Post contacted four college students in New Hampshire who had legally voted with out of state identification.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court spelled out the differences between a “domicile” and a “resident” in a 2015 decision.
“Upon becoming a ‘resident’ of New Hampshire, one has 60 days in which to register one’s vehicle here and to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. These requirements do not apply to citizens who are not ‘residents’ of New Hampshire, although they have their ‘domicile’ here.”
Since Trump created the commission in May, critics have long voiced alarm that it would seek to find voter fraud where it doesn’t exist. Several studies have shown it is not a widespread problem. Kobach’s Thursday op-ed provides a clear example of his attempts to distort statistics and to disregard non-permanent residents to make it seem like a pervasive problem exists. The commission has repeatedly pledged to be neutral.
Earlier this year, Trump said he would have won New Hampshire’s electoral votes had it not been for illegal voters who were bused into the state to vote. New Hampshire election officials have said they have no evidence to support that claim and Trump hasn’t offered any. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D), who is also a member of Trump’s voter fraud probe, told New Hampshire Public Radio he still didn’t have any evidence to question the outcome of the election in November. Still, earlier this year, the state passed a law tightening the requirements for proof residents have to present when they go to register to vote
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D), another member of the commission, said he had not yet read Kobach’s op-ed, but disputed his claim.
“I categorically disagree that not updating your driver’s license is proof of voter fraud,” he said in an interview.
Kobach recently revealed he is getting paid to write columns for Breitbart. Ethics experts have said it could run afoul of federal conflict of interest law for him to write about the commission’s work.