NH election officials dispute Trump tweet on voter fraud
CONCORD — New Hampshire election officials on Monday said there is no evidence to support the claim of widespread voter fraud made by President-elect Donald Trump, who tweeted on Sunday night that he would have won the popular vote nationally if not for “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.”
Although he won a decisive victory in the Electoral College, Trump trails Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2 million in the popular vote.
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted.
Senior Deputy Secretary of State David M. Scanlan, head of the Election Division, said he saw no signs of widespread fraud on Election Day, and challenged Trump to produce evidence to support his claim.
“There’s no indication of anything that widespread taking place in New Hampshire,” he said. “If he has evidence he should pass it along so we can act on it.”
“The perception and the reality are both very important in this process,” he said, “so if the President-elect has information that suggests there’s something going on that is contrary to what we understand, he ought to present that information so it can be acted on.”
Scanlan’s office has received a handful of complaints that he described as typical in any election cycle, ranging from illegally placed campaign signs to improper electioneering at the polls.
“There are some isolated instances of individual voters voting improperly,” he said. “Those have been passed along to the Attorney General’s office and they will chase those down. But we haven’t had any complaints about widespread voter fraud taking place.”
Clinton won New Hampshire by 2,732 votes out of more than 725,000. Scanlan said Trump could have asked for a recount, but didn’t.
Four complaints filed
Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano, who took over the Election Law Unit just before the primary in September, says his office is currently investigating four complaints regarding illegal voting stemming from the Nov. 8 election.
“I do not see any indication of a coordinated effort to conduct voter fraud on a large scale in the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “There is no indication of that. That’s not to say there aren’t potentially isolated incidents in any election, but not the kind of massive coordinated thing the President-elect appears to be referencing, although I’m not sure exactly what he is referencing.”
While not endorsing Trump’s claim, Republican lawmakers have argued for years that the state’s voting laws make it too easy for non-residents to claim a “domicile” in New Hampshire and register on Election Day.
Steve Stepanek, a New Hampshire co-chairman for Trump, is a long-time critic of the state’s election laws. Noting that he is speaking for himself and not Trump, Stepanek said the same-day registration process has shown its weakness in the letters that the Secretary of State’s office has sent out to those who completed a qualified voter affidavit.
When a good number come back as “undeliverable,” it is a good indicator that the voter was probably not really living at that residence, he said.
Scanlan did not have a total on challenged voter affidavits for the most recent election, but said after the presidential primary in February, they added up to less than one-fifth of one percent of votes cast.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire disputes the assertions that the “undeliverable” notices constitute fraud. In a June 2015 report on the Secretary of State’s voter data and election affidavits, the ACLU-NH maintained that there is “no tangible evidence presented of drive-by voting” in New Hampshire.
Laws in the works
State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, has several bills in the works aimed at voting laws, one of which would require proof of residency for the 30 days prior to an election.
He also has drafted a constitutional amendment requiring that “only a resident of the state may establish a domicile for the purpose of voting.”
Governor-elect Chris Sununu has said he would like to do away with same-day voter registration in the state, but said he has not seen any evidence to support Trump’s allegation.
“No evidence of voter fraud in this past election has been brought to my attention,” Sununu said.
Bates said Trump’s tweet will bring attention to the matter as the Legislature addresses the issue. “That statement probably helps us and, in reality, I wish it didn’t,” he said.
Same-day registration is not the big issue, according to Bates. “I’m quite certain we’re not going to go that route,” he said.
New Hampshire used to shut off registration 10 days prior to an election, but adopted election-day registration in the 1990s to obtain a waiver from the federal Motor Voter law. That law requires states to offer and accept voter registrations at the Department of Motor Vehicles or at state agencies that provide public assistance.
“We have a few matters related to election-day registration that the Legislature has been trying to address,” said Secretary of State Bill Gardner, and one is that we at least have a residency requirement.”
Gardner suggested same-day registration with a residency requirement is a better alternative than Motor Voter.
Gardner’ chief deputy for elections agrees.
“I don’t think Motor Voter is the alternative,” said Scanlan. “That really opens up the registration process to allow anyone in the state to take voter registrations and turn them in. Right now it’s a personal act between a voter and local election officials, one on one, and there’s something to be said for that.”
Hoping for changes
The fact that individuals can register and vote on Election Day in New Hampshire by simply filling out an affidavit that attests to a domicile or residence in the state fuels perceptions of voter fraud, according to long-time observer Steve Duprey, a Concord businessman and member of the National Republican Committee.
“While there was no fraud as in changing vote totals and what we traditionally label as fraud, we clearly have people voting here who are not really domiciled here and we should pass the changes recommended by Democratic Secretary of State Gardner to help correct the problem,” said Duprey.
He was responding to a Facebook post by Democratic state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, minority leader in the state Senate, who accused Sununu of “fanning the flames” for Trump through his call for an end to same-day registration and allegations of “drive-by voting.”
Woodburn said the facts do not support claims of widespread fraud, and that the real agenda is to make it more difficult for eligible voters to vote.
Gardner acknowledges that fraud occurs, but on a relatively small scale.
“We’ve had at least one case that is documented and prosecuted in every state election going back a decade,” he said. “It could be a person voting twice on Election Day, someone using someone else’s name, or some who is just not eligible to vote, voting.”