New Hampshire’s secretary of state is one of the few Democrats opposing the election bill that passed through the House of Representatives.
Bill Gardner, who has served as the secretary of state for New Hampshire since 1976, addressed the federal election reform bill during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday morning hearing on election integrity.
Gardner explained that his state does not allow early voting and does not permit no-excuse absentee voting, which means voters need to provide a reason for why they can’t show up to the polls on Election Day in order to get an absentee ballot.
When Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, asked him if the bill in the Senate amounted to a “power grab” by the federal government, Gardner said “yes.”
The Granite State official claimed that having early voting does not automatically increase turnout and compared New Hampshire’s voter turnout to Oregon’s over the last 12 presidential elections, all of which he’s been in office for. In those races, Oregon had a higher turnout until they went to all mail-ballot voting, meaning that ahead of each election, state officials mail ballots to each registered and active voter, which is when New Hampshire started having a higher turnout, he explained.
“Well, first of all, we don’t have any early voting in New Hampshire. And for all the studies that show early voting actually helps turnout, I can show you plenty of academic studies that show the opposite. Just because you make voting easier does not raise the turnout automatically,” Gardner said.
On March 3, the House passed H.R. 1, a Democratic-backed bill that would drastically change the elections on a federal level. The bill would create nationwide automatic voter registration, require states to allow no-excuse absentee voting, and allow felons who have completed their incarceration to vote, among a litany of other changes.
Gardner argued that the bill, should it pass, would violate the state constitution. But that is unlikely in the evenly-split Senate, barring a decision by Democrats to nuke the filibuster.
The hearing focused on the various election reform bills that have been introduced at the state and federal levels. Nearly every state is considering some form of an election-changing bill, though the parties have very different ideas of what it should look like.
Gardner’s testimony is not in line with what his party has generally called for, including increased early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, which Democrats have said would make it easier for people to vote. Their Republican counterparts claim these measures would make it easier to cheat and have promoted ideas such as strengthening voter ID laws to eliminate chances of fraud.
Original Author: Mike Brest