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Live updates from Trump’s election integrity commission meeting in N.H. today

  • Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, founder of "Let America Vote" speaks to protesters gathered outside Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Kander and others were protesting a meeting of the Trump administration's commission on voter fraud, which they argue is designed to suppress voting. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer) Holly Ramer

  • Protesters gather on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., ahead of a day-long meeting of the Trump administration's election integrity commission. They argue the commission, which is tasked with investigating voter fraud, is a sham. Signs reading "Vote Free or Die" played off New Hampshire's motto: "Live Free or Die." (AP Photo/Holly Ramer) Holly Ramer

  • FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2015, photo, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner watches, left, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump fills out his papers to be on the nation's earliest presidential primary ballot at The Secretary of State's office in Concord, N.H. A commission created by Trump to investigate his allegations of voter fraud is scheduled to meet in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File) Jim Cole


By Staff and Wire Reports
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
4:05 p.m. Gardner stands up to Kobach, gets applause

Two sitting secretary of states — including New Hampshire’s — pushed back against a charge made by Kris Kobach last week that out-of-state voter fraud “likely” changed the result of the Hassan-Ayotte senate race in 2016.  

Near the start of a panel discussion at the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner turned to face Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, to address the fraud charge.

“The problem that has occurred because of what you wrote is … the question of whether our election as we have recorded it is real and valid,” he said. “And it is real and valid.”

A smattering of applause broke out in response. 

Matthew Dunlap, Secretary of State in Maine, followed up, calling Kobach’s charge a “reckless statement to make.”

The comments came after Kobach directly addressed his article, published on the website Breitbart last Thursday, in front of the audience. The article focused on figures released by the N.H. Secretary of State’s office last week, showing that more than 5,000 voters had registered to vote with an out-of-state identification in 2016 and hadn’t by Aug. 31. Using that data, Kobach wrote that it “appears that out-of-state voters changed the outcome of the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race.”

Addressing the panel, Kobach wavered on that conclusion. He referenced his use of the word “appears,” saying “I’m still wondering it was the right word." 

He acknowledged that the article did not take into account the difference between voters who are domiciled and voters who are residents — New Hampshire law only requires that voters have a domicile, defined as a place “more than any other place” that a person maintains a presence. Voters are not required to be residents or have drivers licenses to vote. 

Dunlap homed in on that distinction. “There’s utterly no connectivity between motor vehicle law and election law,” he said. He threw in a visual metaphor to drive home the point.

“Making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver’s license is an indicator of voter fraud would be almost as absurd as saying if you have cash in your wallet, that that’s proof that you robbed a bank.”

But Kobach stood by the overall effort of the article, saying that the numbers are “obviously subject to concern” and referencing “anecdotal” evidence that people cross the border to vote. 

He also pushed back at one of the rebuttals to his article: that the voters using out-of-state licenses  in 2016 were concentrated in college towns, and were likely students domiciled in New Hampshire but carrying different licenses. Those students, Kobach said, could just as likely commit voter fraud. 

“This problem of people possibly coming to New Hampshire to vote but with no intention to maintain a domicile in the state is something — not something I thought of, but something that legislators … from New Hampshire have been dealing with this issue for years,” he said.

3:10 p.m., Criminal background check system suggested for voting

A proposal to use a federal background check system to verify voters generated resistance at the presidential election integrity commission meeting. 

In a presentation before the panel, John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, a right-leaning think tank, suggested applying the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to elections to verify citizens looking to vote.

Lott said that using the system, most commonly used by licensed firearms dealers to approve gun sales, would be allow voters to be checked securely.  And he touted the process’s convenience, calling it an opportunity for “one-stop shopping.”

But panelist Matthew Dunlop, saying it would create a host of “unintended consequences” that could create more barriers to voting.

“NICS was never intended to be used as an elections tool,” he said during a question and answer period.

11:05 a.m., Kobach stands by opinion that voter fraud contributed to Ayotte loss 

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Tuesday he stands by an article he wrote on a conservative website last week claiming that the 2016 New Hampshire Senate race “was likely changed through voter fraud.”

The vice chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which is meeting today at St. Anselm college, said that he still supports the claims, which caused a firestorm across the state last Thursday.

The article used figures released by the Secretary of State’s office and the Department of Safety that showed that 5,313 people who registered to vote on election day in 2016 with out-of-state licenses had not applied for new licenses by Aug. 31 of this year.

Kobach seized on the numbers to suggest that those votes could have been illegal and could have swayed the senate election, decided by a margin of 1,017 votes, though election experts said that there was no evidence that the figures demonstrated voter fraud.

Speaking shortly before the commission held its first panel meeting, Kobach said that said the numbers were a cause for concern, but added that his article had stopped short of declaring voter fraud.

“I’m a lawyer, so I write letters carefully, so I used the word ‘appears’ intentionally in the title, and ‘likely’,” he said. “I didn’t say anything with certainty.”

Addressing his remarks Tuesday, Kobach added: “I’ll explain how what we do know, there is additional information we could find out and should find out about.”

After the article was published last Thursday, the claims came under criticism by politicians across the spectrum; a spokesman for Gov. Chris Sununu said they were “based on a misunderstanding of New Hampshire law.”

The data from the Secretary of State’s office was included in the official meeting materials on the White House website ahead of the New Hampshire meeting.

Gardner, who on Friday dismissed Kobach’s article as “opinion” said ahead of the commission meetings that he didn’t have any remarks prepared to refute the claims. But he added that he would be speaking after Kobach’s comments on the Breitbart article, and would push back on any false claims during the panel.

10:25 a.m, Bill Gardner defends role on voter fraud commission

A meeting of President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud opened with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner defending his role and the panel’s existence.

Gardner has faced calls to resign from the commission since its vice chairman, Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, alleged last week that thousands voted illegally in New Hampshire because they registered using out-of-state licenses, though state law allows college students and others to do so.

As the meeting got underway Tuesday, Kobach said he will address that issue further, as will Gardner.

The Democratic Gardner says New Hampshire citizens have a proud tradition of civic participation, and he isn’t about to turn away from that now.

Gardner says the group’s ability to reach consensus is threatened by the partisan reaction it has evoked.

9:45 a.m., National Democrats decry panel

California’s secretary of state says the meeting of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission is just the latest insult in an ongoing quest to suppress voting rights.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is meeting Tuesday in New Hampshire and has spurred controversy since it was established in May. Critics say the Republican president is using the commission to support his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that cost him the popular vote during the 2016 election.

Democratic California Secretary of State Alex Padilla says he’s disappointed but not surprised that the panel won’t hear any testimony from women or people of color.

A spokesman for the commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrat Hillary Clinton got more than 60 percent of the vote in California.

9:15 a.m., ‘Vote Free or Die’

Protesters holding “Vote Free or Die” signs are greeting members of President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud in New Hampshire.

The signs are a riff on New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto, and protesters from the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights say the commission is a sham designed to promote voter suppression.

The panel is holding its second meeting Tuesday at Saint Anselm College to investigate the Republican president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 elections.

Joining the protesters was former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat and founder of Let America Vote. He says the commission was created to substantiate the biggest lie ever told by a sitting president and should be dismantled.