Democratic Official: Even Small-Scale Fraud Can ‘Sway the Outcome’ of Elections
New Hampshire secretary of state rejects liberal claim that integrity measures suppress voter turnout
Liberals often dismiss concerns about voter fraud and argue that even modest measures to increase election integrity undermine the ability of citizens to vote.
As President Donald Trump’s election integrity task force kicked off its first meeting Wednesday, however, it was a Democrat who offered the most forceful refutation of that conventional wisdom.
“Making voting easier by itself does not result in higher voter turnout, as we have seen in our recent elections,” said New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the country’s longest-serving secretary of state.
Voters must also have confidence in the integrity of the electoral system, Gardner said.
He noted that the two states with the highest turnouts in the 2016 primaries both require voters to show photo identification at the polls, which many progressives reflexively oppose as a tool of voter suppression.
Gardner said widespread voter fraud is not necessary to undermine elections. He said he has presided over about 500 hand recounts, including 11 that ended in ties and 32 that were decided by a single vote. The margin was less than 10 in 202 recounts. And as a state representative in the 1970s, he said, he watched a U.S. Senate race come down to two votes.
"I am a witness that every vote matters, and there doesn't need to be massive voter fraud to sway the outcome," he said.
Trump drew scorn from the Left when he created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to study vulnerabilities and potential abuses in the system. But he told the commission members Wednesday that their work was vital.
"Every time voter fraud occurs, it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy. Can't let that happen," he said. "Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting — whether by non-citizens or the deceased — and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped."
Trump said more than 30 states have cooperated with requests to share data with the commission. He chided those that have resisted.
"If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they're worried about, and I ask the vice president, I ask the commission, what are they worried about?" he said. "There's something. There always is."
Commission member Christy McCormack — who was former President Barack Obama's appointee as a commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission — said there are problems in the voting system that are worth addressing.
"I have yet to see a fully accurate voter list at any polling place across the country," she said. "I have seen firsthand irregularities take place in polling places."
Even members of the integrity commission who seem more concerned about voter access acknowledged that integrity has to be part of the equation. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat, said it would be good to assure people there are "no goblins under the bed."
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the commission, pointed to a 2014 survey suggesting that only 40 percent of Americans had confidence that elections were fair to voters. He also noted that he has identified 128 cases of people who were illegally registered or had illegally cast ballots in elections — and he added that one expert estimates that there could be up to 18,000 improperly registered voters in his state.
"This is a mission of the highest order," he said. "I've often thought that at the very foundation of our republic are really two bedrock things — the American Constitution and the faith and the reality that our elections are conducted fairly. If you take away either of those two things, I believe that our republic cannot stand for long."
Commission member J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer who serves as president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, called the voter integrity investigation a "long overdue effort."
Adams pointed to the work of his own organization that has uncovered examples of registered voters who indicated on driver's license applications that they were not citizens.
"What fair-minded American could support this?" he asked. "What serious, inquisitive American wouldn't ask, 'How does this happen? How often does this happen? How can the system be improved?' Yet there are plenty of interests who would rather see these questions not be asked."