U.S. President Donald Trump's panel investigating voter fraud is meeting in the northeastern state of New Hampshire Tuesday after its highest-ranking Republican member claimed that out-of-state voters helped propel a Democratic Senator to victory last November.
Trump established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May after claiming, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in last November's presidential election. Most state election officials and legal experts maintain that U.S. voter fraud is rare.
The commission is holding its second meeting in the city of Manchester days after Kris Kobach claimed Thursday in a Brietbart News column that voter fraud was the reason Democratic U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte by 1,107 votes. Hassan was New Hampshire's governor from 2013 to 2017.
The claims by Kobach, who is also the Republican secretary of state in the state of Kansas, prompted New Hampshire's congressional delegation to demand that New Hampshire's Democratic representative on the commission resign. Bill Gardner, also New Hampshire's secretary of state, refused to step down, saying he wanted to learn why Americans' trust in the electoral process is declining.
Kobach said last week that new data shows over 6,500 people registered to vote last year using out-of-state driver's licenses and only 15 percent of them had obtained New Hampshire licenses. That was proof of voter fraud, he said. But New Hampshire law allows people such as students and military personnel to live in the state for voting purposes and be a resident of another state for driver's licensing purposes.
The New Hampshire chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and civil rights group the NAACP said Monday they would call for the dissolution of the panel because it is trying to weaken democracy through voter suppression.
"The commission's long game is to set the table to restrict voting rights in New Hampshire and across the country," said Ryan Nickel, a spokesman for U.S. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, also of New Hampshire. Shaheen and Hassan are co-sponsors of legislation that would dismantle the commission.
Critics say that Trump, who won the presidency as a Republican, is using the panel to bolster his unproven claims that rampant voter fraud cost him the popular vote in last year's presidential election. Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump. Although Trump lost the popular vote, he won the White House by capturing a majority of the electoral college vote.