A day after admonishing the vice chairman of President Trump’s election integrity commission for making unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in New Hampshire, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said it is becoming clear that most of his fellow commissioners define voter fraud not as violations of voting laws but as having policies that make it easy for people they don’t want to see voting having too easy a time doing so.

“Maybe I’m being too cynical,” Dunlap said Wednesday, “but they are looking at voter fraud as being if legislatures are making it too easy for people who don’t own property in a town to register there.”

Dunlap – who has been criticized by fellow Democrats for participating in the voter fraud commission – emerged as one of the panel’s most vocal critics during its meeting Tuesday at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He said Kris Kobach’s suggestion that thousands of people had acted illegally when they registered to vote in New Hampshire using out-of-state licenses was a “reckless statement to make” and factually untrue.

“Making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver’s license is an indicator of voter fraud would be almost as absurd as saying, ‘If you have cash in your wallet, you’ve robbed a bank,'” Dunlap told his fellow panelists.

Kobach’s assertions were made in a recent article in former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News, a white nationalist-aligned news outlet where Bannon is now a paid columnist. Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, said in the article that it appeared the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race – in which Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte was narrowly defeated by Democrat Maggie Hassan – “was stolen through voter fraud.”

But under New Hampshire law, resident college students and other “domiciled” voters who spend most of their nights in the state can choose to vote there, even if they have driver’s licenses from their home state.

According to New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, Granite State courts have specifically ruled that you can be eligible to vote in the state without being required to get a driver’s license there.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, another Democrat on the commission and the host of the Manchester meeting, also pushed back on Kobach’s accusation, saying the election results in his state were “real and valid.”

DUNLAP SAYS TRUST NOW ‘DAMAGED’

Dunlap said Wednesday that he was especially upset by a revelation Tuesday night that one of his fellow commissioners, voter fraud activist Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, had written Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Feb. 22 to express his anger that the new commission would include Democrats and mainstream Republicans. “There isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing,” von Spakovsky wrote. “If they are picking mainstream Republican officials and/or academics it will be an abject failure because there aren’t any that know anything about this or who have paid any attention to the issue over the years.”

Dunlap said the letter would damage relationships among the commissioners. “What do your political views have to do with your understanding of a policy issue except if our political views are the policy issue?” he said Wednesday. “I think we have some work to do to repair the damage.”

The letter was obtained via public records request by the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based public interest group focused on elections and headed by Trevor Potter, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Any commission tasked with looking at the integrity of our elections should be bipartisan and should not be trying to make voting harder,” Potter said in a written statement, adding that Kobach’s allegations regarding New Hampshire’s election “were clearly intended to undermine our democracy rather than strengthen it.”

DUNLAP TANGLES WITH WITNESS

At the meeting, Dunlap, former head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, also challenged a proposal from gun rights activist John Lott to apply the firearms background check system to voter registration.

Lott argued that Democrats should support it, since many are on the record supporting the background check system for firearms. “Presumably, they would think it would not suppress voter turnout,” Lott told the commissioners.

Dunlap dismissed the idea, calling it a “sterling example of the laws of unintended consequences” that would widen the mission of the background check database, which he said was never intended to be used as an election tool.

He told the Press Herald Wednesday that the information one gets from firearm background checks would not allow you to determine whether someone was eligible to vote. “It was very clear to me that the guy has never sold a gun to someone,” he said.

Dunlap has come under fire from fellow Democrats and election fraud experts for agreeing to participate in the body that Trump set up after making evidence-free claims that he would have won the 2016 popular vote had there not been millions of illegal ballots cast. Dunlap previously has said he has joined the commission with an open mind and will act as a whistleblower if it engages in partisan shenanigans. He is one of four Democrats on the 12-member commission, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

Kobach has sent two controversial requests to election administrators in all 50 states asking them to turn over detailed voter registration information to the commission. Neither of the requests – which were rejected by many blue and red states alike – was made with the prior approval or consultation with the commissioners, raising questions about what if any powers they actually have.

In the commission’s first meeting, Pence made clear that it would focus almost entirely on voter fraud, a problem numerous studies and probes by administrations of both parties have shown is vanishingly rare, and will not address the systematic intrusion of state election infrastructure by Russia, a problem Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, has been especially vocal about.

The commission also is accused of using private email accounts to conduct official business, a possible violation of federal public records laws.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

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