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Gardner Blasts Hassan Over Fed Election Takeover: ‘This Will Hurt Turnout’

New Hampshire’s top election official says Sen. Maggie Hassan has never spoken to him about the federal voting rights law she’s backing, or its impact on Granite State elections. And, Secretary of State Bill Gardner says, that impact won’t be good.

“This will hurt turnout,” he told NHJournal Tuesday.

Last week, Hassan made national news when she took to the Senate floor to announce she was abandoning her support for the filibuster in order to pass the “Freedom to Vote” Act. The bill would impose federal mandates on all 50 states regarding early voting, voter registration rules, voter ID, and taxpayer-funded campaign ads. Federal power over local election laws is needed, Hassan said, because of “partisans who are attacking our democracy.”

Unless the federal government intervenes, Election Day in New Hampshire would be very different, Hassan warned.

“We’ll wake up, cast our vote, drop our kids at school, go to work. We’ll tune back in at the end of the day to see the election results – only to learn that the vote tally is being ignored, that our votes don’t matter much. We’ll learn that our legislatures are going to throw out the results and pick their own winner. We’ll see an election day that is a charade – just like in countries where democracy doesn’t exist.”

Hassan followed up her floor speech with a WMUR interview: “If we can’t protect the wonderful elections that we have in New Hampshire, then we are all faced with a slide toward authoritarianism,” Hassan said.

Gardner rejected Hassan’s conspiracy theories and argued the real danger to the Granite State election process is federal intervention like the law Hassan is backing.

“Look back at history, going back to FECA [Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971], the NVRA [1993 National Voter Registration Act], or the Help America Vote Act. Every time the federal government has stepped in to take over more of the election process, they tell us it will increase voter turnout,” Gardner said. “But the results are very different.”

Gardner says New Hampshire has largely avoided most of the requirements of those federal laws, finding workarounds like same-day registration. Other states like California and Colorado have embraced the federal policies, including widespread mail-in voting.

“Look at the results. We have a higher turnout rate,” Gardner said.

In 2020, New Hampshire had the sixth-highest turnout rate of its voting-eligible population (78.3 percent), well above Colorado (71.3 percent) and California (69.4 percent). The Granite State has consistently had among the highest turnout rates in the country for decades.

“They keep saying these new rules will lead to more voting, but that’s not the record if you look at the facts,” Gardner said.

“If you cheapen the value of voting, and you have people losing faith in the process, you’ll lose people on Election Day. That’s what’s been happening in other states.”

Asked if he explained that to Hassan when she called him to discuss the legislation and her position, Gardner told NHJournal his fellow Democrat has never spoken to him about New Hampshire’s election laws or procedures.

“Not even when she was governor, I don’t think,” Gardner said.

Hassan has declined repeated requests for comment. Asked to name the people in New Hampshire she believes are threatening the state with “authoritarianism” or illegally overturned elections, her office declined to respond.

She does have the support of Granite State Democrats, however. They agree with her view that Granite State elections are under local threat.

“Proposals to undermine our free and fair elections and make it harder to vote are here in the New Hampshire legislature and across the country because of unfounded right-wing conspiracy theories intended to sow division and discord,” Deputy House Democratic Leader and Ranking Democrat on the House Election Law Committee, state Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) said in a statement. “As a caucus, we thank Senator Maggie Hassan for her commitment to defending Granite Staters’ right to cast their ballot, regardless of for whom they cast it.”

Not surprisingly, Republicans took a different view of Hassan’s actions.

“We may never see such a brazen, self-serving flip-flop ever again,” said NRSC spokesman T.W. Arrighi. “Maggie Hassan has gone back on her word and surrendered the fate of New Hampshire’s First-In-The-Nation primary to her buddy Chuck Schumer. What’s most concerning is it appears she surrendered her state’s federal election control to win liberal praise from the radical base she hopes will fund her campaign.”

Gardner, who has repeatedly warned expanding federal control of elections will endanger the state’s First In The Nation primary, is unwilling to attack his fellow Democrat so directly. But, he says, the fallacy of her approach is obvious if you just do some basic math.

“New Hampshire has two members of Congress. States like California, New York, and Texas have far more. If we let Congress make our local election rules, which states are going to decide what the rules are?” Gardner asked.

“California’s not going to get New Hampshire’s election system. We’re going to get stuck with theirs.”

Bill Gardner Wins Narrowest Possible Victory to Hold onto NH Secretary of State’s Post

It took two ballots and came down to a single vote, but Bill Gardner was elected to an historic 22nd term as New Hampshire’s Secretary of State by the new, Democrat-dominated New Hampshire legislature on Wednesday.

Under the rules,  either Gardner or his opponent, fellow Democrat Colin Van Ostern needed 209 votes to win. The first ballot results were Van Ostern 207, Gardner 208 and one “scattered” vote (a ballot for a non-candidate).

The newly-elected (and clearly frustrated) Speaker of the House, Democrat Steve Shurtleff took the body into recess while supporters of the two candidates re-grouped. Then after a brief 3-minute speech for each candidate, the 416 House and Senate members present voted again, and Gardner got his 209.

“In my years in office, I have overseen 500 recounts where 11 ended in a tie and 32 ended up being decided by one vote,” Gardner said in his acceptance speech. “I never actually thought of myself ending up in one like that.”

Gov. Chris Sununu, who had predicted a Gardner win (though Sununu predicted it would be “overwhelming”) greeted the incumbent in the Secretary of State’s office with the cry “Forty more years!”

Van Ostern shook hands with Gardner and and said afterwards “I’m proud to get within a vote of Bill Gardner. No one’s beat him in 42 years.  He’s a legend in our politics and in our state.” The Democratic Party also tweeted out a message of support (“he has demonstrated great dedication and love for NH”)– which shouldn’t be news, given that Gardner is a Democrat.

Some of his fellow party members weren’t happy however, particularly progressives who haven’t forgiven Gardner for his participation on President Trump’s anti-voter-fraud  commission. They grumbled about the fact that at least 33 of their own joined with the GOP minority to support the moderate Gardner and defeat a loyal partisan like Van Osten.  One even tweeted that the New Hampshire Democratic Party should “find those that voted for Bill Gardner over Colin Van Ostern and punish them.” (It was a secret ballot, so…)

Gardner’s re-election is yet another data point indicating that New Hampshire Democrats aren’t in the same progressive mode as the national party.  In September’s primaries, for example, progressive candidates lost to more moderate competitors in the races for governor and the First Congressional District.  And neither of the new legislative leaders, Speaker Shurtleff and Senate President Donna Soucy, will be mistaken for Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The question now is what this means going forward, particularly for the 2020 presidential primary. There are at least 34 Democrats on the potential-candidate list (click here to see who they are), and the national party is already strategizing on how to avoid the mess the GOP experienced with a 16-way race in 2016.  Having Gardner at the helm means there will be fewer questions about partisanship in the New Hampshire primary (Van Ostern is a longtime campaign worker and more likely to raise questions about picking favorites, ala Clinton vs. Bernie in 2016).

And with the NHGOP re-considering its policy of remaining neutral in POTUS primaries involving an incumbent Republican (particularly when they’re named “Trump”), Gardner’s level-playing field approach will add subtle pressure on the party not to pick sides.

It’s widely believed that the 70-year-old Gardner won’t seek another term after this one, a fact that one of his supporters, Rep. Ned Gordon, reiterated in urging his colleagues to re-elect him. “I would like to see Bill finish his career gracefully,” Gordon said.

New Hampshire Debates Turning Over Public Voter Data to Trump Election Commission

Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner are on board to turn over publicly available New Hampshire voter data to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission. Before that happens though, the matter is under review by the state Attorney General and a petition is circulating the state asking the N.H. House to call a special session to deny the commission’s request.

In a request, Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Vice Chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking states to turn over “publicly available voter roll data” including full names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliation, voter history, any felony convictions, and the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers.

Gardner, who also sits on President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, says he plans to share the Granite State’s information next week if the Attorney General’s office signs off that it’s legal. Gardner said he views the request as a way of crosschecking voters nationwide to ensure that people aren’t voting twice in future elections. His involvement in the commission has been widely criticized by Democrats and advocacy groups who call the commission’s mission a “sham.”

Sununu made it clear that the only information New Hampshire would provide is a voters’ name, address, party affiliation, and voting history, including whether a person voted in a general election and which party’s ballot a voter took during a primary election.

That information is already available to political parties and committees for a price and it should be shared with the commission, Sununu said. The statewide voter checklist can also be viewed by members of the public online, except they can’t “print, duplicate, transmit, or alter the data.” It has yet to be determined if the state will charge the federal government for access to the voter information. Private data — like birthdays and social security numbers — would not be provided by the state because it’s not publicly accessible, he said.

“I think every state should comply. Any state not complying is simply playing politics at this point,” Sununu told MSNBC on Friday. “You have to have a system that people can trust, that people can believe in. And this is simply a review to make sure that where our system is today and where it’s going tomorrow has that integrity.”

As of Wednesday, 44 states have denied the commission’s request for access to their voter information. The White House claims 20 states have agreed to provide the publicly available information and 16 other states are reviewing which information can be released under state laws.

“At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission’s request for publicly available voter information,” Kobach said in a statement. “Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has a right to know.”

Democrats and some legal experts are blasting the request, questioning its legality and saying the data could be used to suppress voters and gerrymander in the future.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said under state law it would be illegal for Gardner to provide private voter information. Gardner and Sununu have indicated they would not provide that information as requested by the commission.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Sununu has chosen the Trump administration’s unwarranted request over the privacy of Granite Staters,” Buckley said in a statement. “He is once again falling in line behind President Trump and pledging to hand over our highly personal information to a federal government commission created at best to soothe the president’s ego, and at worst, undermine the integrity of our elections and disenfranchise millions of voters.”

Paul Twomey, a former House legal counsel and attorney specializing in voting issues, sent a letter to top state officials in the attorney general’s office asking them to “immediately intervene to halt any transmission of voter file information to any entities associated with the federal government by the Secretary of State or his office.”

Twomey, who has also served as a lawyer for several Democratic campaigns, argued that Gardner shouldn’t be the one to determine if the state’s information is released since he was involved in the commission’s request for the information as a sitting member of the commission.

“Gardner thus is the requester and should not take part in any decisions about release of this information,” Twomey wrote. “I urge you to immediately review the applicable statutes and take action to safeguard the privacy of the state’s voters.”

Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky sent his own letter on Monday also saying the state is not required to turn over any information to the commission.

“The Commission has not issued an order or a duly authorized subpoena. Your actions most likely violate New Hampshire law,” he wrote. ““The letter requesting New Hampshire’s voter information makes clear that all records provided to the Commission will be made public. Once the Commission makes our voter information public, it will be subject to commercial exploitation.”

Even former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Fergus Cullen opposes sharing data with the commission.

An online petition on was created on Monday that is requesting the N.H. House call a special session to discuss the commission’s voter information request.

“Tell the Governor and Secretary of State to deny this frivolous and intrusive request that is unacceptable and a troubling violation of the state’s laws governing public disclosure of voter records,” the petition states.

As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 500 signatures, including several from people who live outside New Hampshire.

Several Democratic state lawmakers have indicated they support calling a special session, but House Majority Leader Dick Hinch called their petition “political grandstanding.”

“I have a high level of respect for Secretary of State Bill Gardner and it’s unfortunate that Representative Shurtleff and others in the Democratic Party have chosen to suggest he would divulge information that is not public,” he said. “If Democrats had a genuine concern about the availability of the data, they had decades to change the law. By petitioning for a special session they demonstrate their political motives and their disregard for the usual and customary legislative process.”

Gardner is looking at a law passed last year that allows New Hampshire to share information from its voter registration database with the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

Under state law, “the secretary of state may enter into an agreement to share voter information or data from the statewide centralized voter registration database for the purpose of comparing duplicate voter information with other states or groups of states.”

The law also stipulates that the state “shall only provide information that is necessary for matching duplicate voter information with other states and shall take precautions to make sure that information in the database is secure.”

The commission has yet to have its first meeting, but Gardner is expected to travel to the first gathering that is scheduled for July 19.

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NH SOS Bill Gardner Is a Democrat. His Decision to Join Trump’s Voting Commission Shocks His Own Party.

New Hampshire Secretary of State William ‘Bill’ Gardner is widely revered as a bipartisan state official. He has to be since he’s the longest-running secretary of state in the nation and is reelected to his post by an overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats alike.

And he takes his job very seriously. He’s in charge of the state department that oversees all general elections, primary elections, voter registration, and recounts within the state, including the First-in-the-Nation primary. With claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election being discussed often by President Donald Trump, Gardner has played a more active role in politics than simply overseeing elections. He’s become a fierce advocate for keeping New Hampshire’s primary status and for tightening voter laws to make sure Granite State voters are the only people voting in the state’s elections.

With that last issue, he’s siding with Republicans who are trying to get a bill passed this legislative session that would define the differences between “residency” and “domicile.” Yet, Gardner is actually a Democrat. He began his career in New Hampshire politics as a Democratic state representative before he was elected secretary of state in 1976 by the Legislature, and he has shown over the years that he’s not afraid to stand up to members of his own party for what he believes is right.

“We’re not denying anyone who shows up at the polls to be able to vote; we’re just saying we want to be able to let everyone know these votes are valid and true,” Gardner told lawmakers when Senate Bill 3, a voting reform bill, was introduced in March.

Democrats and outside groups are pushing the narrative that the GOP bill is a form of voter suppression and would especially discourage college students from voting. But Gardner said he would not support legislation if he thought it would hurt voter turnout.

In fact, he’s so serious about voter integrity that he agreed to join Trump’s national commission to review voting registration and voting processes used in federal elections. Trump ordered the creation of the Commission on Election Integrity that will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and co-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“There is a reason I’m doing this,” he told WMUR. “I care a lot about this. I’ve spent my whole life dealing with it, and it’s too bad that over half of the people in the country feel that there is vote fraud. Let’s find out why.”

Earlier this year, Trump claimed he lost the popular vote in the November election because “millions” of people voted illegally. He said that he lost New Hampshire’s four electoral votes because “thousands” of people crossed the Massachusetts border “on buses” to vote illegally.

Gardner disagreed with the president, saying there was no widespread election fraud in the state, but there were a few cases of people voting in New Hampshire who shouldn’t have in previous elections.

In 2014, Gardner said he saw illegal voting with his own eyes.

“We have drive-by voting,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “The people that ran the polling place called me over, and said they had three people who didn’t know whether they could vote, and they wanted me to answer the questions. So I go over, there were two young men and a young woman, and they were AmeriCorps [volunteers].”

The woman was from Washington state and said she missed the deadline, but “really wanted to vote.”

“She said she was going back to Washington state the first of December. I said, well that should answer it for yourself as to whether this is now your home,” Gardner said.

She did not ultimately vote, but the two men did. He said he is essentially powerless in these situations unless the Legislature decides to act.

Under SB 3, they allow the secretary of state’s office to investigate a voter registrant’s information if local supervisors are unable to verify a voter’s domicile.

Looking at voter fraud or voter integrity (depending on who you’re talking to) is something Gardner has been wanting to look into for a while. When Republicans introduced a similar bill in the Legislature  in 2015, former Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed it, even though Gardner gave it his approval. He was also in favor of instituting a photo ID law when casting a ballot.

Democrats in the state are unhappy with Trump’s new commission, and are surprised that Gardner would agree to participate. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire called it a “sham” and a “kangaroo commission.”

“Signing this piece of paper will not make Mr. Trump’s false statements about voter fraud true,” said ACLU-NH Executive Director Devon Chaffee. “Our expectation is that, while on this commission, Secretary Gardner will only join conclusions in the commission’s final report that support voting rights and are based on actual proven facts, not unsupported speculation.”

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff is calling on Gardner to assure that New Hampshire taxpayers are not paying for his travel or accommodation when he works on the commission.

“In addition, I would hope that your state time is not used in the pursuit of your work for the commission,” he wrote in a Friday letter. “As you are well aware, many Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire believe that there is no validity to President Trump’s claims that there was voter fraud in NH. It is my hope that you will bear this in mind when presenting information or otherwise engaging your time on this commission.”

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