House Democratic leader raises concern with Gardner election appointment

  • Secretary of State Bill Gardner gives a history of New Hampshire's Electoral College participation before electors cast their votes at the State House in Concord on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 5/22/2017 6:26:27 PM

The House Democratic leader is seeking assurances that no New Hampshire taxpayer dollars will be used to support an election integrity commission President Donald Trump created to review alleged voter fraud.

Trump recently tapped longtime New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to sit on the commission. It’s not yet clear when the group will start meeting or how much time it will consume.

“I am hoping that you will provide the citizens of New Hampshire assurance that no state money is used for your travel or accommodations while you are working in Washington, D.C. on this Commission,” wrote House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff in a letter to Gardner on Monday. “In addition, I would hope that your state time is not used in the pursuit of your work for the commission.”

House Speaker Shawn Jasper called the letter “the height of partisan politics.”

Gardner, a Democrat and the longest-serving secretary of state in the country, was out of the office and unavailable for comment. Gardner was first elected secretary of state by the Legislature in 1976 and is known as a staunch defender of the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.

After Trump lost the presidential contest in New Hampshire, he and his advisers made repeated, unsubstantiated claims of “serious voter fraud” in the state.

Gardner has denied “rampant” fraud in New Hampshire and said the state runs fair elections. After Trump made his first claim about fraud in the state in November, Gardner said he believed New Hampshire voters had confidence in the integrity of the state’s elections.

This session, however, Gardner is backing a bill that seeks to place additional restrictions on same-day voter registration, a move he said is needed to combat public perceptions that fraud exists, according to the Associated Press.

Gardner’s nomination to the commission sparked concerns from state Democrats.

“I think it’s an attempt by the president to take advantage of a public servant who has done a good job over a long period of time,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat. “I wonder if in the long run they might throw Bill Gardner under the bus.”

Jasper said Gardner is a good choice. “I don’t think there’s too many more people in this country that know more about election law,” said Jasper, a Hudson Republican. “I think he’s a perfect choice and I think we should be honored to be part of that discussion in Washington D.C.”

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