Trump Election Panel's Kobach Rebuked for Breitbart Commentary
(Bloomberg) -- One of President Donald Trump’s leading voter-fraud investigators faced a wave of criticism in the "Live Free or Die" state.
With protesters outside waving “Vote Free or Die" banners, Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the election integrity commission, was lambasted by committee colleagues for an opinion piece he wrote in a Breitbart.com last week. Kobach claimed that New Hampshire laws allowed people with out-of-state identification to vote there and election results were likely tipped illegally in favor of Democrats.
The rebukes from New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap at the second gathering of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity may portend the first partisan ruptures on a panel where Republicans dominate Democrats by a 7-5 margin. Gardner and Dunlap are among the Democratic contingent.
Dunlap said drawing a connection between motor-vehicle law compliance and election law compliance was “as absurd” as saying finding money in somebody’s wallet might be proof they’d robbed a bank.
“I think that’s a reckless statement to make,” he said.
In the column on Breitbart, which is run by Trump’s former senior counselor Stephen Bannon, Kobach wrote that New Hampshire’s same-day registration allows a person to cast a ballot, with a “modicum of identification.” He said 6,540 same-day registrants used an out-of-state driver’s license to prove their identity and more than 5,500 were fraudulent, because 10 months later they still had out-of-state licenses.
That was more than enough to swing the election in favor of Democrat Maggie Hassan over Republican Kelly Ayotte for a U.S. Senate seat and may have provided the margin of victory for Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, Kobach said.
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen ripped Kobach earlier on Tuesday, accusing him of rehashing false claims and using “slippery words.” She called instances of voter fraud there and across the U.S. “extremely rare,” and accused Trump of creating the commission to “lay the groundwork for broad-scale voter suppression laws.”
Trump maintains, without evidence, that but for the casting of 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots he’d have won the popular vote in last year’s election. Trump is president because he gained more electoral college votes. He created the election integrity panel in May to study federal election processes across the U.S. and to report back to him within two years.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was absent from Tuesday’s proceedings at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, is the chairman of the 12-member body.
University of New Hampshire political science professor Andrew Smith told the panel a college student could have a Massachusetts driver’s license and license plates, pay the out-of-state tuition rate and still lawfully vote in New Hampshire if that’s where they’re living at the time.
Later, Kobach -- the Republican Kansas secretary of state and a candidate for governor there -- raised the issue anew, stating he struggled to articulate his thoughts within the confines of the Breitbart column.
Learning how people with out-of-state identification voted was “almost impossible,” he said. Until further research is done, Kobach said, “we will never know the answer,” to the question of whether November’s election results were legitimate.
Gardner, sitting directly to Kobach’s left, chided the vice chairman for jumping to the conclusion those who voted with out of state identification were doing so illegally. He said the numbers cited by Kobach “don’t create proof.”
Kobach, surrounded by reporters after the session ended, defended his remarks about the apparent out-of-state voters, asking how the state can protect future elections from those who drive in. He appeared to retreat on his claim that the votes were fraudulent, calling them “questionable.”
Acknowledging Smith’s testimony he said, "the mere fact that one is enrolled in a college doesn’t change the applicability of the New Hampshire domicile law. It still requires that you establish a domicile." He said it was possible for some students to meet that requirement while others not. He called it a "worthy issue" for legislators to examine.