Towns and cities ask Gov. Sununu to investigate voter fraud claims, preserve state reputation

Monitor staff
Published: 3/30/2017 12:31:09 AM

Several New Hampshire towns are asking Gov. Chris Sununu to investigate claims of voter fraud made by President Donald Trump.

Webster’s select board signed its letter at a meeting Monday evening.

“All municipalities, including Webster, take great pride in the integrity of our elections and the way in which they are managed by municipal employees and dedicated volunteers,” the letter reads.

Referencing Trump’s claims that both he and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost in New Hampshire because “thousands” of voters were illegally bused in from Massachusetts, the Webster select board said these allegations reflect poorly on New Hampshire and “deserve serious attention.”

Since the White House has not yet furnished evidence for these claims, Webster officials asked that Sununu conduct his own investigation.

Numerous fact-checks and a Dartmouth College research group have shown the accusations to be unsupported, and numerous state election officials have disputed the claims.

“(The board) requests that the administration retract its comments if found to be baseless,” the letter reads. “If this matter is not brought to resolution, the taint of corruption will remain in people’s minds, with adverse impacts to our State and its reputation.”

The Lebanon city council signed a similar letter to Sununu on March 9, and Webster select board chairman Bruce Johnson said he had heard that Laconia was sending one, too.

Last Wednesday, Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub also repeated her February call for Trump to furnish proof for his allegations.

“This allegation of a vast conspiracy, involving thousands of people committing felony criminal acts aimed at stealing the election, has deeply disturbed citizens throughout America,” she wrote. “In these polarized times, we will never be able to find common ground on sound policy moving forward if we are operating on different assumptions of what occurred in the recent past.”

Vice President Mike Pence was chosen to lead an investigation last month, though little has been shared publicly on that effort so far.

Sununu hasn’t exactly been neutral on the subject. Before the election, Sununu made a similar claim as a guest on the Howie Carr Show in November, saying that Democrats committed voter fraud through the same-day registration process.

“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.

The governor later walked back that comment and said it was a figure of speech referring to campaign workers who live and work in New Hampshire for months and then vote in elections here instead of their home states.

And on New Hampshire Public Radio in February, Sununu agreed there was no evidence for widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire.

Sununu said ambiguity in the state’s current election law should be tightened.

“I think there’s a lot of areas where we can strengthen and more clearly define the laws so it’s a clean process, so to speak,” Sununu said.

New Hampshire legislators have been working on a number of bills tightening rules on who qualifies as an eligible voter, including one that would add a more thorough verification for people registering to vote on Election Day without identification documents.

While New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has been staunch about the lack of proof to back up Trump’s voter fraud claims about New Hampshire – he’d really like to see a photo of Bay State residents getting off a bus here – he recently testified in support of the same-day registration bill.

Of the 9,000 or so people who signed the same-day registration affidavits in lieu of identification during the 2016 elections, Gardner said about 740 of the mail voter verification cards he sent out were returned as undeliverable.

The state has prosecuted just a few voter fraud cases in recent years.

By tightening same-day voter registration, Gardner said he didn’t think the bill would suppress voter turnout. He did say he believes it might help people have more faith in the election process in today’s political environment.

“You want as many people as possible to be able to vote,” he said. “On the other hand, you want a process that a lot of people trust and believe is working right with integrity and security.”

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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