New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is defending his participation in President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, saying the process will be transparent.
In fact, that remains very much up in the air.
Gardner has been criticized for agreeing to join the panel, which many independent experts and voting rights advocates fear will be used to lay the groundwork for additional voting restrictions. Trump has falsely claimed that millions of people voted illegally last year.
“What is the fear? It’s going to be an open process,” Gardner responded in an interview Friday with The Concord Monitor. “I don’t think anybody is going to disagree with that.”
In fact, there’s been no indication from the White House about how open or transparent the commission, which plans to hold its first meeting in July, will be. And Gardner acknowledged he’s heard almost nothing from Washington since the panel was announced.
“I don’t know when the meetings are going to be, whether they are going to be on weekends,” Gardner said. “I don’t know.”
Nearly three weeks after it was launched, the commission appears to have no website or press spokesperson. And the driving force behind the panel, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, isn’t well-known for transparency: he’s currently fighting in court to avoid releasing an apparent list of voting and immigration proposals that he was photographed holding while meeting with Trump soon after last November’s election.
Gardner, the nation’s longest serving secretary of state, is one of just two Democrats so far named to the commission—Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is the other. But Gardner is elected not by voters but by the New Hampshire state legislature, which has a GOP majority, and he’s supporting a controversial bill that would restrict same-day voter registration.
As he has before, Gardner said in the interview that his involvement in the Trump commission is motivated by a desire to understand public perceptions of the voter fraud issue.
“It bothers me that a substantial number of people in the country believe there’s voter fraud,” said Gardner.
But the commission seems ill-suited to probe that question in a useful way. The three men behind the panel—Trump, and its two co-chairs, Vice President Mike Pence and Kobach—have helped lead the way in spreading the false notion that voter fraud is widespread, something Gardner has made clear he doesn’t believe.
Gardner also declined to rule out spending state money on travel and accommodations for his work on the panel, after Democratic lawmakers last week asked him to confirm that he won’t do so.
He said he “never envisioned there would be state money for the travel,” but added that it’s not clear, according to the Monitor.