N.H. says once and for all that no one was bused in to vote

Chichester, NH - A voter goes into the voting booth to cast his ballot in the New Hampshire Primary at the Town Hall in Chichester, New Hampshire February 8, 2016. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff Topic: Reporter:
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff.file 2016
A voter goes into the voting booth to cast his ballot in New Hampshire.

Last year, President Trump made front-page news when he explained to a small group of senators that he lost New Hampshire in the general election because there were “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from neighboring Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in the Granite State, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

It was a first for a president of the United States, but the theory that Democrats bused voters in to the Granite State has been floated in GOP circles for several years. Months earlier, Republican Governor Chris Sununu said much the same thing in a radio interview just after the 2016 election. And Scott Brown used the excuse to explain why he lost a bid for US Senate there in 2014.

The accusations prompted the state of New Hampshire to launch a months-long investigation into whether voter fraud had in fact occurred. This week, members of the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office, along with the state Department of Justice, issued a report with one overriding conclusion: Claims of massive voter fraud in the state were nothing but a myth.


The two state agencies found that among the approximately 743,000 voters who cast ballots in the 2016 general election, just four appeared to have voted illegally, mostly out of confusion about where they were supposed to vote. For example, some said they were told to go to an incorrect location, others thought they were allowed to vote any place where they own property.

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“I do believe there are times when people misunderstand where they should vote, which still fascinates me, but they do,” Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards told the Ballot Law Commission. “I think certain people believe that if they own property in two towns they should be able to vote in two different elections in two different towns.”

Separately, Edwards said that of the 6,000 who registered to vote on Election Day and signed an affidavit swearing to be a state resident, just 66 in 15 communities did not ultimately have their identities verified. But the state could not confirm exactly why they couldn’t contact those people, and Edwards cautioned: “No one should reach any conclusion that an unlawful vote was cast, because we have not been able to identify these voters.”

But what about those buses?

“We’ve received calls about Vermont buses, Massachusetts buses, and Maine buses,” said Edwards. “Each time we have sent an investigator out to the polling place, and they have been able to determine the situation is that the bus company is from Maine, or Vermont, or Massachusetts, but not the voters on the bus.”


Why then should we care, more than 18 months after the election?

Because the GOP in New England’s only swing state has used the specter of massive voter fraud to pass a number of bills related to voter eligibility. The latest bill, which would require any new voter to get a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days, is waiting for Sununu’s signature.

“If they were passing laws based on what the president said, that would be disconcerting,” said Brad Cook, chairman of the Ballot Law Commission and a Republican.

Perhaps more to the point, a year from now the nation’s eyes will turn, as they do every four years, to New Hampshire. At that point, any question of potential voter fraud would be bound to cast a pall over the primary season, something New Hampshire cannot afford if it wants its first-in-the-nation primary to maintain its integrity.

James Pindell can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics: