On Thursday afternoon, Marc Lotter, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, shared a debunked Washington Times story alleging that widespread voter “may have tipped New Hampshire against Trump.”
The story, authored by Rowan Scarborough, is rooted in the fact that 6,540 registered to vote in New Hampshire on election day last year using out-of-state driver’s licenses, “and since then the vast majority have neither obtained an in-state license nor registered a motor vehicle.” Scarborough suggests that his findings “bolster” allegations “that many people vote in New Hampshire without proof of residence.”
There is just one problem with this theory: There is no actual evidence to support it.
There are many possible explanations for the out-of-state licenses. The 6,540 people who used out-of-state licenses to register on election day may be college students. Or they might not own cars. Perhaps they’re even students who don’t own cars.
In any event, as the Washington Post notes, New Hampshire officials have the personal information of all of those people, so “[i]f the Republican legislature and governor would like to dig deeper and determine if any of those 5,000-plus people committed fraud, they certainly can.”
Weeks after the election, President Trump alleged that there was “[s]erious voter fraud” in New Hampshire, which he lost to Hillary Clinton by 2,736 votes.
But state officials have consistently said there’s no merit to Trump’s claim. Addressing Trump’s tweet in late November, New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey told the Boston Globe, “I have no idea what he is talking about.”
“If they are talking about stuffing ballots here or missing ballots there, well that doesn’t happen in New Hampshire, and there has been no suspicion that it happened this time,” Duprey added.
The Times report notes that “[s]ince Election Day, Republicans have charged that a significant number of nonresident Democrats, principally from Massachusetts, flowed into New Hampshire to vote illegally, tilting a close race to their party.” But a Washington Post study found no evidence that New Hampshire voters with Massachusetts licenses determined the outcome.
“Of towns where at least 10 voters used out-of-state drivers licenses as identification, the median number of New Hampshire voters with Massachusetts IDs is one,” the Post found. “Two of those were in towns close to the Massachusetts border. As permitted by New Hampshire, people use Massachusetts IDs to register in New Hampshire if they recently moved to the state and have yet to acquire a New Hampshire ID.”
While the logical underpinnings of the Washington Times report aren’t sound, that didn’t stop Pence’s co-chair of the Trump administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — from hyping the piece in his latest Breitbart column.
In his column, Kobach falsely claims that the Washington Times story is “proof” that “out-of-staters take advantage of New Hampshire’s same-day registration and head to the Granite State to cast fraudulent votes.”
“If 59.2 percent or more of them went for [Democratic Sen. Maggie] Hassan, then the election was stolen through voter fraud,” Kobach wrote. “That’s likely, since the surrounding states are Democrat (sic) strongholds.”
But the Times story doesn’t prove anything. As the Post’s Philip Bump notes, Kobach “is running a federal investigation into the integrity of the voting system — and he cites college kids at Dartmouth as ‘proof’ that Hillary Clinton actually lost the state. His commission, in fact, could ask New Hampshire for the data to investigate these 5,000 cases itself, at which point Kobach could inform the public about whether or not fraud had been proven. Instead he riffed on a Washington Times article.”
Meanwhile, on the heels of Kobach’s column, the Post’s Dave Weigel spoke with a number of college students who were among the 6,540 who registered in New Hampshire on election day using out-of-state licenses.
“I was a student at Saint Anselm College in Manchester until I graduated this past May, and because I spent most of my time in the state I felt it was right I vote there instead of my native state of New York,” 22-year-old Patrick Derenze told him.
Another, 20-year-old Jonah Cohen, said, “I’ve since transferred to Columbia, so I won’t be voting in New Hampshire anymore, but I haven’t changed my registration yet… I did not end up getting a N.H. license, but I never needed one to vote.”
When Trump announced the formation of the Pence-Kobach commission in May, the White House proclaimed it would “study vulnerabilities in voting systems.” But it has since become clear that the group is trying to manufacture evidence in support of Trump’s lie that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in order to pave the way for a purge of voter rolls, thereby suppressing voters who are likely to vote for Democrats.
Lotter didn’t immediately return a voicemail seeking comment.