Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. Credit: Troy R. Bennett

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap blasted the vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission for claiming there’s proof that thousands of illegal votes were cast in New Hampshire last year.

Dunlap’s comments to Kansas Secretary of State Chris Kobach came during the commission’s hearing at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Dunlap was responding to Kobach’s column in Breitbart News, which was distributed widely in conservative networks, and to unproven assertions made by Trump himself that voter fraud was rampant in last year’s election.

Kobach cited New Hampshire election data showing that 5,000 people who voted last year registered to vote with out-of-state IDs, but did not get in-state IDs in the months after. He said that’s proof that voter fraud occurred.

But Dunlap eviscerated Kobach’s claims during the commission meeting.

“Making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver’s license is an indicator of voter fraud would be almost as absurd as saying that if you have cash in your wallet, that that’s proof that you robbed a bank. I think it’s a reckless statement to make,” Dunlap said.

Reckless, he said, because of New Hampshire’s residency requirement. He asked University of New Hampshire professor Andy Smith to explain it.

Smith said it’s common to hear complaints that out-of-state college students are voting in New Hampshire.

“But it is legal in New Hampshire for you to have a Massachusetts driver’s license, and have Massachusetts plates on your cars, and pay out-of-state tuition to the university, and still be eligible to vote because you are domiciled in New Hampshire, meaning you spend most of your nights here,” he said.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has upheld this interpretation. And a report by New Hampshire Public Radio back in February found that most of the people who used out-of-state IDs to register last year were in fact out-of-state college students.

Dunlap said New Hampshire’s law is not as strict as Maine’s. But as he told the commission, the political battle over voting by out-of-state college students is no less intense.

Last year, Dunlap took on Republican Gov. Paul LePage for reiterating claims in anonymously distributed fliers and emails that warned college students to register their cars or obtain Maine IDs if they voted last year.

“The idea was to scare these kids into not participating,” Dunlap said.

That experience prompted Dunlap to call foul on Kobach’s fraud claims in the Granite State.

Kobach, who has been roundly criticized for making unfounded voter fraud claims before, didn’t respond to directly to the criticism. But Dunlap wasn’t the only member of the panel to offer it.

Sitting directly next to Kobach was New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who also said Kobach was wrong to claim fraud without evidence.

This report appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.