CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who was heavily criticized for joining President Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission, said Thursday he is disappointed it has been disbanded.
Trump created the commission in May to investigate the 2016 presidential election, after alleging repeatedly and without evidence that voter fraud cost him the popular vote. The White House blamed the decision to end the panel Wednesday on more than a dozen states that refused to comply with the commission’s demand for reams of personal voter data, including names, party affiliations, partial Social Security numbers and history of voting.
Gardner, a Democrat, said Thursday he saw the commission as a chance to explore why many Americans have lost confidence in the election process. He cited the Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in November that found that just over half of New Hampshire residents believe voter fraud is a very serious or somewhat serious problem in the United States. A third of those polled said it was a serious or somewhat serious problem in New Hampshire.
“For most of my adult life I have strived to maintain an effective balance between making voting as accessible as possible while also ensuring the highest level of integrity,” said Gardner, the nation’s longest serving secretary of state. “Achieving such a balance ensures voters not only can participate in elections but truly have the will to do it.”
Critics blasted the voter fraud commission as a biased panel determined to curtail voting rights. It faced numerous lawsuits, including one filed by commission member and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat who alleged the panel violated federal law by refusing to provide him with documents available to other members, among other charges.
Gardner planned to comply with the commission’s request for data by sending millions of scanned, unsearchable images of voter checklists, but never did so. His office spent months going through the lists and redacting handwritten entries that included personal information about some voters, including those with domestic violence protective orders.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said the decision to disband the commission reaffirmed the lack of evidence for widespread voter fraud.
“This commission was established to sow doubt regarding election outcomes and help lay the groundwork for voter suppression efforts,” she said. “And while this commission has been suspended, unfortunately, voter suppression efforts continue unabated.”