Second Meeting of Trump Election Commission Brings Fresh Criticism

New Hampshire officials do not roll out welcome mat

From left, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on Tuesday in Manchester, N.H. (Holly Ramer/AP)

A host of fresh criticism rained down on President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud Tuesday as it held its second meeting since the panel’s creation in May.

Most of the harshness was directed at Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who led the meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in his capacity as vice chairman. Vice President Mike Pence, the panel’s chairman, was not present.

Days before the committee met, Kobach penned an op-ed for the far-right Breitbart News in which he said out-of-state voters interfered in last year’s New Hampshire elections. Democrat Maggie Hassan unseated Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and Hillary Clinton picked up the Granite State’s four electoral votes.

During the meeting, held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Kobach said allowing same-day voter registration on Election Day may be partly to blame. He suggested people from out of state had flooded its borders on Nov. 8. “We will never know the legitimacy of the election,” he said.

Fact-checkers have shot down his assertion, which was criticized by New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat, who serves on the commission. 

At one point in the meeting, Gardner challenged Kobach’s allegations of voter fraud in the New Hampshire Senate race, calling Hassan’s victory last fall “real and valid.”

Kobach’s claims also brought outside critics to the fore.

“Trump’s sham election commission is designed to spread the lie of rampant fraud in order to justify voter suppression,” the ACLU tweeted during the meeting.

Ahead of the commission’s meeting, which stretched over more than four hours, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who represents New Hampshire’s 1st District, condemned the panel and Kobach’s allegations, advising residents to “consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”

“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” Shea-Porter said in a statement.

Hassan and her fellow home-state Democratic colleague, Jeanne Shaheen, said in a joint statement the commission represented “an attempt to grossly mislead voters and lay the groundwork for broad-scale, politically motivated voter suppression.”

They also said Gardner should quit the commission. 

“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,” the senators wrote.

Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, also called for Gardner to step down from the panel.

“This commission is nothing more than an excuse to suppress the vote and discourage participation in our democratic process,” Singh said. “Secretary Gardner should rescind any association he has with the fraudulent commission immediately.”

In May, Trump signed an executive order that created the commission he has tasked with investigating his own allegations of voter fraud.

The president has said three million to five million people voted illegally in last year’s election that sent him to the White House via an Electoral College win, even as he lost the popular vote to Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. He has not provided evidence to back that assertion.

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