Kobach Discovers College Students Live in College Towns

A Breitbart op-ed charged a stolen New Hampshire election. Oops!

September 8, 2017

Despite his claims that he won’t “pre-judge” the findings of the Trump “Voter Fraud” Commission of which he is the vice-chair and public face, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is already inserting misleading claims into the public dialogue ahead of the Commission’s next meeting in New Hampshire. Specifically, he says there must have been voter fraud in New Hampshire because people registered to vote with out-of-state driver’s licenses (which is legal), and some still do not have a New Hampshire license or car registration. From this alone, he claims the election was tainted because these people must not have been eligible to vote in New Hampshire (he also purports to be able to divine which candidate they voted for).

It’s worth noting that Kobach is basically recycling the same misleading claim he made after the election, when he suggested there was widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire because of the mere fact that people registering on election day used out of state licenses. But this is completely legal, and commonplace, especially for college students, who probably comprised the majority of these voters. A typical example would be someone who lived in Massachusetts and got a driver’s license at 16, moved to New Hampshire for college at 18, and registered to vote in New Hampshire.  

But now, Kobach is making hay out of the fact that of the 6,540 individuals who registered with out of state IDs, 5,313 of them had not gotten a New Hampshire driver’s license or registered a car there as of August. From this alone, he claims there is “proof” they never were “bona fide residents” of New Hampshire and voted illegally. Philip Bump has already pointed out some of the flaws in this logic, but it’s worth explaining at least three reasons the claim is completely bogus:

First of all, eligibility for voting and residency for the purpose of getting a driver’s license are not the same thing. In fact, a 2015 court ruling decided that very question in New Hampshire, finding that you can be eligible to vote in New Hampshire but not be subject to the driver’s license residency regulation. As we’ve documented in detail, it is constitutionally required that students be allowed to vote where they go to school.  

Second, it is not true, as Kobach claims, that “a new resident has 60 days to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license.” The actual legal requirement is that a “driver of a motor vehicle who holds a valid driver’s license in another jurisdiction” get a New Hampshire driver’s license in 60 days (emphasis added). Kobach conveniently omits the emphasized language, which undermines his entire argument. An individual who was a driver in another state, but moves to New Hampshire and is not a driver in New Hampshire, does not need to get a driver’s license. Who might be the kind of person who would drive in another state, then move to New Hampshire and stop driving? College students! (David Weigel already found some). Again, college students have the right to vote. This might also include some folks like retirees, who moved to New Hampshire and are no longer driving. And, people have undoubtedly moved away from New Hampshire since Election Day.

Third, even if people are living and driving in New Hampshire without a driver’s license, this does not mean they have committed voter fraud. If anything, they may have violated the New Hampshire vehicle code by driving with an out of state license. But that does not mean they are not eligible to vote in New Hampshire. If Secretary Kobach wants to add another job to his increasing docket (Secretary of State, self-appointed fraud attorney general, candidate for Governor, fraud commission vice-chair, Radio Host, and now Breitbart columnist), perhaps he can inquire whether the New Hampshire DMV needs extra deputies to track down scofflaws operating on Granite State roadways with illicit Connecticut licenses. But these fly-by-night motorists are not illegal voters—it’s not the same thing!

Kobach’s claims are ridiculous to the point of farce, but there’s nothing amusing about the idea of someone propagating this level of junk science running the Fraud Commission. It might seem shocking that chief election official of a state, much less one running a commission on election integrity, would make such an irresponsible claim, but this is far from the first time Kobach has wildly inflated claims of illegal voting.

This episode underscores the importance of scrutinizing whatever comes out of this Commission with gusto. Policymakers have no reason to defer to the findings of a body that makes such baseless claims.