By Katie Sanders, PolitiFact Staff Writer
President Donald Trump won the election but he lost New Hampshire, a fact he has tried to explain by arguing that liberal voters from Massachusetts crossed into New Hampshire to cast their vote against him.
Trump floated the alleged Massachusetts-to-New Hampshire busing activity earlier in the week in a private meeting with 10 senators about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, according to media reports. Trump and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping Gorsuch through the confirmation process, both lost their races in the Granite State to Democrats.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller for evidence for Trump’s statement multiple times in a Sunday interview on This Week.
“I’ve actually, having worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you that this issue of busing voters in to New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It’s very real, it’s very serious,” Miller said. “This morning on this show is not the venue for me lay out all the evidence.”
Miller went on to talk about the administration’s issue with people who are registered to vote in two states or illegal voters on voter rolls, repeating false talking points and never bringing up evidence to back up the administration’s claim about a pipeline of bused-in voters in New Hampshire.(The White House did not provide evidence to back up the busing claim after Miller’s interview and instead pointed to a 2014 editorial about the need for voter ID laws that did not mention busing.)
We searched widely, as have others, and failed to find any evidence corroborating Miller and Trump’s claim. The claim rates Pants on Fire.
Fergus Cullen, who ran the New Hampshire Republican Party from 2007-08, said the stories about voters coming over from Massachusetts are as old as “the invention of the bus.” What fuels the concern is New Hampshire’s same-day voter registration law, even though it was adopted in the 1990s with strong Republican support to avoid the federal government’s “motor voter law,” which allows people to register to vote at their DMV.
“The result is that yes, it is possible and legal for someone to drive into a polling place in a car with out-of-state tags, register to vote, and vote,” Cullen told PolitiFact. “Of course they have to sign affidavits and they would be risking significant legal penalties if they voted in more than one place or state. The odds of being caught are pretty high.”
He said the same theory was going around in New Hampshire in 2012, an election where Massachusetts Democrats were supporting Elizabeth Warren against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown.
Adding more fuel to the talking point is that some Massachusetts residents do go to New Hampshire to help with that state’s closer elections, said Dante Scott, a University of New Hampshire political scientist who has written books and articles about the state’s elections over 15 years.
“So it certainly is possible on election day people from Massachusetts come north to work on the election itself,” he said, “but that’s a far cry from proving that they vote here.”
Miller’s claim has been analyzed by our colleagues at PolitiFact New Hampshire, who found no evidence busing exists. They rated a similar claim about Massachusetts residents boarding buses to vote in New Hampshire Pants on Fire.
Chris Sununu, who won his bid for New Hampshire governor Nov. 8, warned ahead of the election that Democrats would bus in Massachusetts voters in places where elections are not close and assign them a fake address to apply for same-day voter registration in New Hampshire.
That statement, like Miller’s, was flawed. Aside from one to two cases per election, the top state elections official said widespread voter fraud is not a problem. "I have no basis to say it’s rampant, and there are ways we can deal with it," New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said in an interview with PolitiFact New Hampshire.
New Hampshire law requires voters to provide IDs at the polls. Without a proper ID there are added barriers and questions, as the voters sign a sworn affidavit with their address and get their photo taken. After the election, the state sends confirmation letters to those addresses to confirm identities. Letters that are returned as undeliverable are investigated.
In Sununu’s case, he eventually walked back much of his argument, saying he wasn’t talking about literal buses of voters crossing into the state; rather it was a “figure of speech that people are coming over, they’re temporarily here, they vote and then they leave.”
The incident he had in mind was, he said, of Portsmouth state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark letting Democratic staffers live at her house during the 2008 and 2012 elections. The staffers voted in New Hampshire, using her address — but that wasn’t illegal, the state attorney general concluded, because they had lived in the state for at least three months before the election.
PolitiFact New Hampshire, in particular, talked to several state and local officials about whether anything fishy occurred Nov.8. Nashua City Clerk Tricia Piecuch, who works in the state’s second-largest city on the border with Massachusetts, said nothing out of the ordinary went down. Officials in the Secretary of State’s office, Attorney General’s office and U.S. Attorney’s office all reported no complaints of voter fraud in the 2016 election.
“We have never gotten any proof about buses showing up at polling places,” Gardner, a Democrat, told The Boston Globe. “It’s not in a private place. It’s a public place.”
In response to reports about Trump’s meeting with senators, FEC Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub called on the president to “immediately share his evidence with the public and with the appropriate law-enforcement authorities so that his allegations may be investigated promptly and thorougly.”
“The president has issued an extraordinarily serious and specific charge,” Weintraub wrote Feb. 10. “Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored.”