‘Massive voter fraud’ unnecessary to sway elections, Bill Gardner tells election commission

  • New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner says show the proof of busloads of people from Massachusetts. GEOFF FORESTER

  • N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner (left) greets former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell at the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. YouTube

Monitor staff
Thursday, July 20, 2017

The growing suspicion voters have toward elections might be hindering turnout, Secretary of State Bill Gardner told his fellow members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on Wednesday.

Gardner didn’t address presidential accusations of widespread voter fraud at the commission’s first meeting. Instead, New Hampshire’s top elected official asked why so many people thought voter fraud was a major problem and wondered how that perception might affect participation.

While other national election commissions in the past have spent their time “continuing the quest for ways to make voting easier,” Gardner suggested a different first step for this one.

“In my opinion, we need to first understand why turnout has not increased as a result,” he said at the Washington, D.C., meeting.

Gardner noted that states with voter ID laws, including New Hampshire, saw top turnouts during the presidential primaries in 2016.

“It has been my belief over many years of administering elections that we will see an increase in voter turnout only when ease of voting is balanced with security and integrity,” he said. “Making voting easier by itself does not result in higher turnout.”

Gardner cited professors who he said are increasingly discussing how voters’ confidence in the election process is an important factor in their determination of whether to participate.

“Automatic voter registration is not going to get more people to vote. It is the will of the voter. It is the value that the voter sees in actually doing it that is the key to getting more people to vote,” he said.

He added: “The biggest contribution, I think, that we could make is if we could answer that question in some way of, ‘What is the will to vote?’ The equation has been upside-down on the seesaw – all about ease, all about ease – but there are professors now across this country, more and more of them, that are talking about how important the confidence is that ... a potential voter has in the process.”

Gardner said polls have increasingly shown that Americans suspect voter fraud is a problem and that they don’t think their votes are being counted accurately or that the process was secure.

The commission met for the first time Wednesday since President Donald Trump created it in May. Vice President Mike Pence, who is its chairman, said its members have “no preconceived notions or preordained results” and will act as fact-finders to promote fair and honest elections.

Trump has asserted without evidence that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, and in his remarks at the commission’s outset questioned the motives of states that refused to comply with the commission’s request for voter information.

“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said. “There’s something. There always is.”

The commissioners gathered in Washington, D.C., to plan for future meetings and discuss the topics they’d like to pursue in the coming months.

Gardner, who is the country’s longest-serving secretary of state, positioned himself an authority who’s overseen scores of close races.

So close, in fact, that 11 ended in a tie, 32 were decided by one vote, and 202 were decided by fewer than 10 votes, he said.

“I am a witness that every vote matters, and there doesn’t need to be massive voter fraud to sway the outcome,” Gardner said in his introductory remarks.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)