No Evidence of Busing Voters to N.H.
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White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller doubled down on President Trump’s unsupported claim that thousands of voters were bused in from Massachusetts to vote illegally in New Hampshire.
Despite multiple prods from ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos to provide evidence, Miller did not — instead he said the practice was common knowledge to “anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics.”
New Hampshire’s deputy secretary of state told us there is no evidence of organized efforts to bring in voters from out of state.
Miller then went on to repeat the baseless claim of massive voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election across the country, based on two studies that show no such thing.
Busing Voters from Massachusetts?
Miller’s comments came as he attempted to defend the president’s reported comments about voter fraud in New Hampshire to a group of senators in a private meeting last week. Trump claimed that he lost New Hampshire in the general election because thousands of Massachusetts residents were bused in to New Hampshire to cast illegal votes against him.
“Having worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics,” Miller said on ABC’s “This Week” on Feb. 12. “It’s very real, it’s very serious.”
When Stephanopoulos asked for evidence of people being bused in from Massachusetts to vote illegally in New Hampshire, Miller said, “Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire with respect to bringing in voters.”
Republican Thomas D. Rath, the former New Hampshire attorney general who did not support Trump in the primary, tweeted this:
Let me as be unequivocal as possible-allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless,without any merit-it's shameful to spread these fantasies— Tom Rath (@polguru) February 12, 2017
On CNN, Rath went on to say that Miller’s comments were “not connected to reality.”
“People were not bused in here illegally,” Rath said. “That did not happen,” he added, pausing on each word for emphasis.
Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party in 2007-2008, who said he has been working on elections in the state for the better part of two decades, called Miller’s statement “completely preposterous” and “absolutely delusional.”
Claims of people being bused in to New Hampshire from out of state are probably as old as buses themselves, Cullen told us in a phone interview.
“It’s been made in many elections,” Cullen said. “But it is completely baseless, completely false.”
The rumor likely gains traction due to the state’s same-day voter registration policy. That means eligible voters can show up and vote on Election Day if they sign an affidavit attesting that New Hampshire is their “domicile,” and they get a photo taken.
The state’s domicile law is pretty vague on requirements for residency, Cullen said. And so it is possible for someone who only moved to the state a week before to legally vote there. The law also allows college students from out of state to vote in New Hampshire, although it would still be illegal to vote in more than one state (or at more than one New Hampshire polling place).
Much as some may not like the same-day registration law — and Cullen said he’s not a fan — it is the state law. But people availing themselves of same-day registration, legally, is different from thousands of Massachusetts residents being bused in to vote illegally in New Hampshire. The idea that people could quietly pull off such a scheme in an age when anyone with a cell phone could document a bus bringing in people from out of state is preposterous, Cullen said.
And Republicans who say they don’t like same-day registration have only themselves to blame, Cullen said. The same-day registration law, he said, was passed in 1996 by a Republican majority to get around the federal motor voter law, which requires states to offer voter registration at the DMV when people get their driver’s licenses or at state agencies that provide public assistance. Cullen said Republicans feared that would be a boon to Democratic Party registration.
David Scanlan, deputy secretary of state for New Hampshire, told us in a phone interview that there were about 5,000 domicile affidavits signed on Election Day in November. According to the law, he said, people could have moved to New Hampshire on Election Day and still could have been eligible to vote there. But the state has ways to check up on that.
The state sends out a verification mailing to those who sign domicile applications, Scanlan said. Those that come back as undeliverable are referred to the attorney general for investigation. State officials have yet to complete that process, he said.
Every election, he said, state officials have come across a few cases of voter fraud. But, he said, “We really don’t have any evidence of any organized effort from another state to send people to try to change the outcome of the vote.”
Such an organized effort would be logistically difficult to pull off, Scanlan said, and the penalties are severe. Voting by a person who is knowingly unqualified to vote is a class B felony in New Hampshire, and the court can impose a maximum range of between 3.5 years to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. It also could carry a civil penalty.
Each town is its own polling place with its own slate of elected polling officials, Scanlan said. “They have a pretty good handle on the pulse of the place,” he said. “They would sense if there was something going on in terms of busloads of people coming in, and it would be reported.”
“We just don’t see it,” Scanlan said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a complaint of busloads of people coming in from out of state.”
Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers University and author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” said the allegation of “busloads” of people coming in to vote from out of state is a common urban myth, particularly in New Hampshire.
Minnite says that’s in part because courts have ruled that it’s OK for students to claim domicile in New Hampshire while attending New Hampshire colleges from out of state. And New Hampshire has several universities in small towns. But that’s not the same as people being bused in from out of state to vote illegally. There is simply no evidence of that, Minnite told us.
“For him [Miller] to claim, belligerently and with no evidence, something that is a completely untrue myth, that gets everyone upset about the integrity of our elections, it’s incredibly reckless,” she said. “They need to provide the evidence, or stop it.”
Noncitizens, Dead Voters and More
Miller went on to talk about voter fraud across the country, arguing that Trump was “correct 100 percent” when he said he would have won the popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million illegal votes. Trump won the election with a convincing victory in the Electoral College, but Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes.
“But I can tell you this, voter fraud is a serious problem in this country,” Miller said. “You have millions of people who are registered in two states or who are dead who are registered to vote. And you have 14 percent of noncitizens, according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.”
When it comes to “people who are registered in two states or who are dead who are registered to vote,” Miller is referring to a 2012 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, titled “Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade.” That report found that “more than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters” and that “approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.”
The report’s authors said it shows that voter rolls are “susceptible to fraud,” and that it is evidence of the need to upgrade voter registration systems. But the study’s lead author made clear that the study “found no evidence that voter fraud resulted.”
As for Miller’s claim that “you have 14 percent of noncitizens, according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote,” that’s based on research by two Old Dominion University professors published in the journal Electoral Studies. That study drew upon a national election survey in which 14 percent of people who self-identified as noncitizens in both 2008 and 2010 samples indicated they were registered to vote. Based on those who reported that they actually voted, the authors estimated that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of noncitizens voted in 2010.
That study was blasted in a rebuttal paper written by a Harvard professor who helps to maintain the voting database. He attributed the results to “measurement error” — noting, for example, that a small number of people had marked in some years that they were noncitizens, but not in other years. The rebuttal paper concluded that “the likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0.”
We second Stephanopoulos, who ended his interview with Miller by saying, “But, for the record, you have provided zero evidence that the president was the victim of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire. … You have provided zero evidence that the president’s claim that he would have won the general — the popular vote if 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants hadn’t voted, zero evidence for either one of those claims.”
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