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Gardner: Let facts speak for themselves

By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 19. 2017 12:40PM
BILL GARDNER 



Secretary of State Bill Gardner, during the first meeting of the presidential commission on election integrity Wednesday, said that national scrutiny is necessary to safeguard voting and instill public confidence in the ballot box.

"I am a witness that every vote matters and there doesn't need to be massive voter fraud to sway the outcome," he said as the commission convened in Washington, D.C.

While Gardner said he would endeavor to let the facts the commission uncovers speak for themselves, President Donald Trump asserted that something was amiss with states that do not want to share voter registration information with the commission.

"One has to wonder what they're worried about," he said in introductory remarks.

Trump did not repeat his past unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, including his allegation of major fraud in New Hampshire, a state he lost in 2016. But he alluded to it in his remarks. Gardner has said there's no evidence of what the President alleges. In a reference to criticism about the advisory commission, including his involvement, Gardner called for a deliberate review to balance security with access.

"But when states try to balance the ease of voting with measures to increase voting integrity, it is often met with hostile resistance and charges of suppression," he said.

The longest-serving Secretary of State in the nation recalled he has conducted nearly 500 recounts, with 202 decided by fewer than 10 votes, 11 recounts ending in a tie, and 32 decided by one vote.

Trump said more than 30 states have agreed to share information, per a request from the commission that some states have objected to. He called on all states to cooperate. The voter roll sharing is being challenged in court. Some states maintain they cannot share the voter information because their state laws do not permit it.

Gardner has said he will comply to the degree he plans to send voter names, address, party affiliation, and voting history, because it is public information.

Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the chairman of the commission, called the inquiry a bipartisan effort.

"This commission has no preconceived notions or preordained results. We're fact-finders," Pence said.

Gardner expressed concern about the perception, based on polling, that voter fraud is widespread. He said it is worth examining why voter turnout has not increased nationwide, despite efforts over the past few decades to make the process easier.

"We also need to compare states that have voter ID laws to those without. I might add that the two highest states in turnout during the presidential primaries last year were both photo ID states," said Gardner.

Gardner said states should ensure proper, secure voting systems to spur more Americans to vote.

He opened his remarks with a story about a person, when the U.S. Constitution was first ratified, asking Gen. George Washington what the most important thing a person could do for the country. Washington answered in five words: "Express your views beyond yourself."

"When I first became aware of that, I took it to mean everyone's voice mattered," Gardner said. "Be willing to share your views. Have dialogue with others and let others share their views with you, for it will strengthen our country."

"It can also be applied to voting, where we collectively express our views beyond ourselves by way of the ballot box," Gardner said. "And the more often we get to do that, the more often we fulfill the will of our first President."

dtuohy@unionleader.com


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