Skip Navigation
Analysis

Kobach Discovers College Students Live in College Towns

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

  • Jonathan Brater
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.