FEC calls on Trump to back up ‘atonishing’ claim of voter fraud in N.H.

  • FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a White House senior staff swearing-in ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington. Trump’s economic plans are nothing if not ambitious. Yet even to come anywhere near his goals, economists say Trump would have to surmount at least a half-dozen major hurdles that have long defied solutions. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

  • Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, prior to a meeting between President Donald Trump and a group of U.S. Senators on his Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Monitor staff 
Monday, February 13, 2017

Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub is calling on President Donald Trump to provide evidence to back up his recent claim that he and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost the election in New Hampshire due to voter fraud.

During a meeting with Ayotte and senators, the president claimed he and the former senator would have won the November election in New Hampshire, had it not been for “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from Massachusetts to illegally vote in the Granite State, Politico reported on Friday.

Weintraub called for Trump to release any evidence to back that claim up.

“The president has issued an extraordinarily serious and specific charge,” Weintraub said in a statement. “Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored. I therefore call upon President Trump to immediately share his evidence with the public and with the appropriate law-enforcement authorities so that his allegations may be investigated promptly and thoroughly.”

Weintraub called Trump’s allegations “astonishing.”

“The scheme the President of the United States alleges would constitute thousands of felony criminal offenses under New Hampshire law,” she said. “As a Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, I am acutely aware that our democracy rests on the faith of the American people in the integrity of their elections.”

Trump’s claim is similar to one Gov. Chris Sununu floated – and later walked back – during the fall campaign.

As a guest on the Howie Carr show in early November, Sununu responded to a question about the state’s long run Democratic governors by charging state Democrats of voter fraud by way of same-day registration.

“We have same-day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them in all over the place,” Sununu said.

PolitiFact NH rated Sununu’s claim Pants on Fire. While the state’s top elections officials say the state is not entirely free of voter fraud, there are only isolated instances of voter fraud in the past, 1-2 cases a year.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has prosecuted two criminal fraud cases, one civil fraud case and investigated other complaints since 2012, Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano said.

None of those instances involved buses of Massachusetts voters being shipped across the border on Election Day, officials said.

In November, Sununu walked back his comments a few days later.

“No, I don’t want to imply I see buses coming over,” he said. “It’s more of a figure of speech that people are coming over, they’re temporarily here, they vote and then they leave.”

There are a number of bills in the state legislature this year aimed at tightening New Hampshire’s election laws, however, a bill that aimed to get rid of same-day registration was recently dropped by its prime sponsor.

State Rep. Norman Silber, a Republican from Gilford, told NHPR the bill was too much trouble and would force the state to comply with other federal voting mandates in lieu of same-day registration.

New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper told WMUR on Friday that Republicans are making election reform a priority this year.

“There is no evidence that I have seen that people were bused here from anywhere, but the president’s comments go to the heart of the problem” Jasper said. “There is a perception that we lack voter security, and we will be working very hard to address that.”

This is not the first time Trump has claimed voter fraud in New Hampshire with no evidence to back it up. He took aim at the state shortly after the November election, tweeting that “serious voter fraud” had taken place in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – part of a nationwide voting scheme that robbed him of the popular vote.

That claim was widely debunked; election officials in all three states said there was no evidence to back up the claim and PolitiFact affiliates in all three states rated his statement Pants on Fire.

“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of major voter fraud in New Hampshire’s elections,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in response to Trump’s most recent comments. “President Trump continues to spread a dangerous lie and it’s long past time for Republican leadership in New Hampshire to stand up and defend our state’s electoral system.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)