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Trump disbands election integrity commission, cites lack of cooperation from states

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 03. 2018 9:04PM
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner speaks during the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity at St. Anselm College in September 2017. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

Frustrated at how many states refused to turn over information, President Trump abruptly late Wednesday dissolved the election integrity commission he created to investigate how much voter fraud occurred in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump signed an executive order terminating the commission, which New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner had served on.

Gardner had defended the group's work amid calls from the all-Democratic congressional delegation that he should quit or risk tarnishing his legacy.

“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine the next courses of action.”

Gardner could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Trump set up the commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serving as vice chairman, to investigate his claims that voter fraud is a massive problem that cut into his vote margins in the 2016 election.

The President blamed his narrow defeat in New Hampshire to “buses” of Massachusetts residents who came over the border to illegally vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The panel had struggled from the start, running afoul of judges who said they were violating open-records laws and even being accused of hiding information from its own panelists.

The commission only met twice: an introductory meeting in Washington in July, and another conference at the St. Anselm Institute of Politics in September.

After the New Hampshire meeting, one commission member, Ronald Williams II, a senior researcher, was fired after his arrest when police said they found child pornography on his cellphone. Another member, David Dunn, a Democrat and former state representative and lobbyist in Arkansas, died suddenly on Oct. 16 following heart surgery at age 52.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, also a member of the panel, sued in federal court and accused Kobach and other leaders of refusing to share the work of the commission with all its members.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., had been a vocal critic of the commission from the outset.

“The President's decision to dissolve this commission, once again, reaffirms the lack of evidence for widespread voter fraud,” Shaheen said. “This commission was established to sow doubt regarding election outcomes and help lay the groundwork for voter suppression efforts. And while this commission has been suspended, unfortunately, voter suppression efforts continue unabated. Republican politicians, in both Washington and Concord, should focus their efforts on appealing to eligible voters rather than purging them from the rolls.”

But former Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg, a Hudson Republican, called Trump's decision a “sad day” and said that he remains convinced it's far too easy to vote in New Hampshire.

“In New Hampshire, we gave college students the right to vote here and in their home state,” Clegg said. “Those kids don't realize it doesn't cover a federal election. They vote thinking New Hampshire law allows it, but New Hampshire law only covers New Hampshire state elections.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley accused Gov. Chris Sununu and other GOP leaders of being in league with Trump's voter fraud conspiracy claims.

“New Hampshire got played. It's an absolute shame that this sham commission tried to drag the first-in-the-nation primary state's sterling reputation through the mud as Governor Sununu nodded his head in support,” Buckley said. “It's embarrassing that Sununu and the Secretary of State's office went along with this commission's request for voter info, putting Granite Staters' safety at risk in the process.”

As many as 20 states declined to turn over voter fraud information to the commission.


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