On November 27, President-elect Donald Trump made the false claim on Twitter that “millions” of people voted “illegally” during the presidential election on November 8. Hours later, he singled out Virginia, California and New Hampshire as states where there was “serious voter fraud.” Again, this claim isn’t true, but Republicans have raised concerns about potential voter fraud in New Hampshire. Just days before the election, Chris Sununu, who won the gubernatorial race, made the false claim that Massachusetts residents were being “bused” into the Granite state to vote.
Trump’s tweets over the weekend came after the Hillary Clinton campaign agreed to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein‘s call for recalls in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Clinton’s popular vote lead over Trump is now over 2.5 million, but Trump won the election with at least 290 electoral votes. New Hampshire’s four electoral votes were later awarded to Clinton after she won the state’s popular vote by less than 3,000 votes. Losing New Hampshire didn’t matter for Trump’s victory, since he still has over the 270 electoral votes needed.
Again, there has yet to be any evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, a state where just over 755,000 total votes were cast in the general election. “This will probably cost me my spot in the Cabinet but there was no fraud, serious or other, in this election in NH. There just wasn’t,” Thomas D. Rath, the former New Hampshire attorney general and a Republican, tweeted.
Here’s a look at why Trump might have singled out New Hampshire.
1. Chris Sununu Claimed, Without Any Evidence, That Democrats Were Busing Voters in From Massachusetts
On October 31, Sununu, now New Hampshire’s governor-elect, went on conservative Boston radio host Howie Carr’s show and was asked why Democrats frequently won the governor’s race.
“The Democrats got very sly. When they first took over in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they changed the election laws,” Sununu said. “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 claimed that there was “no doubt” of election fraud in the Granite State. He said he would have called elections “rigged,” but that is “the word you’re not supposed to use anymore. But they have really gamed the system in their advantage.”
Sununu went on to cite a 2008 and 2012 case involving Portsmouth Senator Martha Fuller Clark, a Democrat who had several of her staffers living with her. The State’s Attorney General said that those voters were allowed to consider New Hampshire their domiciles to register to vote.
PolitiFact rated Sununu’s claim as “pants on fire.”
Although New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told Politifact on November 5 that, “In every election since 2000, there’s been someone prosecuted for election fraud,” he said there is no proof that voter fraud is a major concern in the state.
“I have no basis to say it’s rampant, and there are ways we can deal with it,” Gardner said.
2. Sununu Wants to Get Rid of New Hampshire’s Same-Day Registration Because it ‘Brings Too Many Questions to Mind’
In a November 18 interview with WMUR, Sununu said he wants to get rid of New Hampshire’s same-day voter registration law. New Hampshire is one of just 11 states that allows same-day registration during the general election. California and Vermont will add same-day registration in 2017 and Hawaii will add it in 2018.
“I’d love to do away with it,” the governor-elect said. “It just brings too many questions to mind. We want to make sure when we get the tallies out of those voting machines, we know they are real, we know they are legitimate, and we don’t have to go back and forth and back and forth over what was legitimate and what wasn’t.”
State Rep. David Bates, a Republican, told WMUR that getting rid of same-day voting registration alone wouldn’t solve the “problem” of people from other states voting in New Hampshire’s elections. Surprisingly, Bates doesn’t want to get rid of same-day voting because he doesn’t want the Motor Voter Law imposed on the state. It’s a federal law that requires state offices like DMVs to provide voter registration opportunities.
Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming were all exempt from the law “because, on and after August 1, 1994, they either had no voter-registration requirements or had election-day voter registration at polling places with respect to elections for federal office.”
3. Governor Maggie Hassan Vetoed a Bill That Would Require Voters to Live in New Hampshire for at Least 30 Days
Republicans tried to counter concerns of “drive-by voting” with Senate Bill 179, which would require voters to be a resident of the state for at least 30 days before election day. Governor Maggie Hassan, who will be the next Senator of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate, vetoed the bill in July 2015, saying that it “did not to anything to accomplish” the goal of ending voter fraud.
The constitutional right of all citizens to vote is the most fundamental right of our democracy, critical to the robust citizen-led democracy we are so proud of in the Granite State, and while we must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent and aggressively prosecute voter fraud, Senate Bill 179 did not do anything to accomplish those goals. We should not adopt arbitrary restrictions that will prevent lawful residents from taking part in the democratic process, restrictions that have been found unconstitutional in other states. Instead, we must always work to ensure that people who are legally domiciled in New Hampshire are allowed and encouraged to participate in our democracy. Moving forward, I will continue fighting to protect the fundamental right of all citizens to vote.
State Republicans were disappointed by her decision, noting that the bill had the full support of Gardner. “This bill has the full support of New Hampshire’s official on voting laws, Secretary of State William Gardner, who says it will protect the state from voter fraud and drive-by voting without infringing on an individual’s right to vote,” Senator Sharon Carson told the Union-Leader.
The concern is the definition of “domicile.” The bill had attempted to define this as closer to a person’s main residence or abode. The State Supreme Court had previously struck down another bill that tried to solve this by making voter sign an affidavit that confirmed they had to follow the state’s residency laws “including laws requiring a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a resident,” the Union-Leader notes.
4. You Currently Don’t Need a Photo ID With You to Register to Vote in New Hampshire, but You Do Have to Sign an Affidavit if You Don’t Have 1
New Hampshire’s Voter ID Law does require you to have a photo ID with you when you register to vote. However, if you don’t have one, all you need to do is agree to have your picture taken and sign an affidavit. They are required to present identification later after they get a letter from the Secretary of State’s office. If a voter doesn’t show identification, then it’s up to the Attorney General’s office to do something about it.
“That’s where we hit a brick wall, because the AG doesn’t do their part,” Bates told WMUR. Bates wants voters who sign affidavits to provide proof of residence within 10 days before receiving a letter from the Attorney General if they do not do so. “Hopefully they will do their job and investigate those people,” he said.
5. The Attorney General’s Office Only Has a Part-Time Employee Working on Election Law Investigations
After the election, Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice made a request in budget meetings for a full-time employee to help investigations into election law complaints. As The Concord Monitor reports, the Attorney General’s office only has one part-time employee who works on election law and it can take years for the office to take action on complaints. The most recent report on election law investigations in September showed that there were 50 still open. Some were over six years old.
“Unless we can get someone who is dedicated to elections enforcement, the kinds of protections that are in our laws really are a false promise to our citizens,” Rice said during budget meetings. “We simply can’t make sure that people are complying with these laws.”
Senate President Chuck Morse, a Republican from Salem, wasn’t happy that Rice brought this up at all, but Rice insisted that what she was asking for didn’t mean that she thought there was widespread voter fraud. It was just that the Attorney General’s office needs more resources to investigate alleged election violations.
In November 2015, the Center for Public Integrity gave New Hampshire an F in “electoral oversight,” but this was mostly because of finance violations not being perused, not because of voter fraud.
WMUR sought comment from Gardner on Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the state, but Gardner offered no comment.