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N.H. Secretary of State Gardner to Join Trump's 'Election Integrity' Commission

Allegra Boverman for NHPR
Secretary of State Bill Gardner greets then-candidate Donald Trump during his filing for the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner will be part of a newly created “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity” to be launched by the Trump administration this week, Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan confirmed Thursday.

News of the commission's impending launch was first noted by ABC News, which reported the panel will study both voter fraud and voter suppression. ABC News reports Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be in charge of the commission. 

Kobach, who has crusaded against voter fraud in his home state and elsewhere, has previously defended President Trump’s claims about out-of-state residents infiltrating New Hampshire elections.

Earlier this year, in an interview with CNN, Kobach claimed he had reason to believe out-of-state residents voted illegally in New Hampshire — because Kobach said New Hampshire's Secretary of State told him thousands of people registered to vote using out-of-state licenses on the day of the election.

“Now some of those are going to be legit, they’re going to be people who just moved to New Hampshire and hadn’t yet gotten a New Hampshire driver’s license,” Kobach told CNN. “But many of those will be out-of-state residents who voted in the state.”

Under New Hampshire law, it is legal to use an out-of-state license as a form of identification when registering to vote — and, according to records obtained by NHPR, this occurs most frequently in areas surrounding college campuses. Out-of-state college students are allowed to vote in New Hampshire, under state law.

Despite these claims from Trump and Kobach, Gardner and his deputies have repeatedly denied the existence of widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire — but the secretary has argued in favor of stricter voting laws because of perceptions that fraud might be taking place. 

New Hampshire also recently began implementing an “Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program” developed by Kobach. As reported by Kansas public media outlet KCUR, the Crosscheck system is touted as a tool for states to clean up their voter rolls and identify cases where someone might be improperly voting in multiple elections, but it has been criticized for “false positives” that could lead otherwise legitimate voters to be removed from local checklists. 

Gardner was not immediately available for comment on his nomination Thursday morning.

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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