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UNH Professor, Local Election Officials Among Those Addressing Trump Voting Panel

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Casey McDermott, NHPR
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Secretary of State Bill Gardner introduces George Cleveland, grandson of Grover, and a ballot box in use since 1892. Those boxes will be part of a presentation to the Trump panel.

When the Trump Administration’s presidential commission on voting issues meets Tuesday at St. Anselm College in Manchester, the lineup of speakers addressing the panel will include several local voices

Among them will be UNH Survey Center Director Andy Smith. Smith says Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of the Trump commission, invited him to address two main issues at next week’s meeting: the impact of lowering the voting age to 18, and the role of voter confidence in election turnout. 

Smith has done polling, some of it in conjunction with the Secretary of State’s office, measuring voter confidence in election results and voting technology. One poll conducted last year, for example, compared voter confidence in the outcome of the election with confidence in the outcome of the Powerball lottery.

Smith said he doesn’t plan to push a particular narrative at the commission and said voter confidence is one of many factors that can sway voter participation.

“I just do want to make the point that in places like New Hampshire, where you’ve got a high level of confidence in the election, you’re likely to have higher turnout,” Smith says. “It’s certainly not the only cause of high turnout, it may not even be the major cause, but it’s something I think is important for the commission to take a look at.”

Other local voices on the meeting agenda include former Gov. John H. Sununu and two town moderators who will present ballot boxes that have been in use since 1892.

“I think people will get a kick out of it, sort of,” Gardner said, of that presentation of century-old voting machines. “You know that phrase, it’s not only a New Hampshire phrase, but ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ And here’s two examples of a voting machine that’s been in use for 125 years.”

Gardner said he contributed to the speaking lineup, reaching out to academics and other officials inviting them to participate in the meeting. Asked about critiques that a number of those chosen to speak have advanced claims that voter fraud is a wider problem than evidence suggests, Gardner said he wants people to go into the meeting with an open mind.

“I don’t have preconceived ideas or expectations, but I do want the facts to guide us, and I want to be sure that we search for the facts,” Gardner said. “It would be much more fair to look at all of our sessions and not to jump to conclusions based on the first meeting and one of three panels at the first meeting.”

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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