President Donald Trump has promised to get to the bottom of the voter fraud epidemic and uncover the truth behind the millions of allegedly illegal votes cast for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and the president’s political opponents aren’t happy about it.
As the voter fraud investigation has heated up, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has been forced to defend both his role on Trump’s election fraud commission and the panel’s existence Tuesday amid liberal criticism that it’s unnecessary to investigate voter fraud.
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Gardner, a Democrat, has faced calls to resign from the commission since last week, when its vice chairman, Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, alleged that thousands voted illegally in New Hampshire last year because they registered using out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Kobach argued that the numbers are “proof” that voter fraud helped elect Democrat Maggie Hassan to the U.S. Senate, though state law allows college students and others to vote without obtaining New Hampshire driver’s licenses.
As the meeting got underway Tuesday morning, Kobach said he will address that issue later in the day, and Gardner indirectly referred to it in his opening remarks.
“I want to first direct my comments to the people of New Hampshire because some are questioning why I am here,” Gardner said. “New Hampshire people are not accustomed to walking away or stepping down from their civic duty, and I will not, either.”
He also defended the commission, saying that while the group’s ability to reach consensus is threatened by the partisan reaction it has evoked, its work is just getting underway and it has not yet reached any conclusions.
“In order to live free we must have a stable election process to keep the confidence of our citizens. This is, in a nutshell, why this commission was established,” he said, referring to New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto.
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The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been controversial from the moment it was established in May.
Critics say Trump, a Republican, is using the commission for personal reasons — to investigate claims of widespread voter fraud that cost him the popular vote during the 2016 election, which they say is unfair to question.
There has long been rumors of widespread voter fraud by conservatives, which they say is evidenced by a number of isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S.
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Liberals say there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem, so there is no need to investigate further.
The commission first met in Washington in July, shortly after letters to officials in all 50 states seeking a long list of information about voters, including partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth and party affiliations if such information was considered public in their states.
After privacy concerns were brought up, Kobach later sent a revised letter explaining the information would not be released publicly.
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Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have refused to comply, while three remain undecided, according to an AP survey. The strong majority of those states refusing to cooperate are led by Democrats.
The Associated Press contributed to this article