Washington Post: In an era of innovative vote-fraud claims, Don Bolduc dusts off a classic

Saturday, October 29, 2022

By Phillip Bump

If you look on social media from the period around the 2020 election, there is one thing that appears to be absent: any footage of a bus dropping off voters in New Hampshire.

You’d think that if there were school buses or charter buses rolling up to polling places and disgorging dozens of people, that would have been captured somehow: by other voters, by neighbors, by workers at the polling places themselves. But there are no such images or videos that I could find.

That means one of two things. Maybe the buses parked around the corner or behind a wall, letting people out one or two at a time to slip into the church where ballots were cast. Or maybe there were no buses of people shuttling illegal voters from other states to cast ballots in New Hampshire, as Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc alleged during a debate Thursday.

If you are only vaguely familiar with Bolduc’s name, it’s probably because he was in the news a month or two ago, also for voter-fraud-related reasons. Bolduc won the Republican primary in the state after echoing former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the results of the 2020 election were suspect. But then, as soon as he earned a spot in the general election, he backtracked. The rapid reversal was flagged as an indicator that, for some people at least, repeating Trump’s claims was little more than opportunism.

But then there was this week’s debate. During a section focused on election integrity — itself a reflection of the spread of Trump’s claims — Bolduc elevated that idea about the buses.

“We need to make sure that school buses loaded with people at the polls don’t come in and vote,” he said, to tittering in the audience. “ … You can laugh about it, but people in New Hampshire aren’t laughing about it.”

The moderator pushed back. “You’re claiming that buses full of voters who are not permitted to vote here,” he asked — “you’re claiming that that happens in New Hampshire?”

“I am claiming that that is what Granite Staters tell me,” Bolduc replied. “And I’m saying we need to respond to that. … I’m saying that this is what Granite Staters are telling me, and I think it’s valid.”

At the outset, notice that Bolduc frames this idea as being a response to voters’ concerns rather than a concern of his own. This is a common way in which Republicans have managed to elevate fraud claims from a distance. When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) announced that he would be objecting to electoral votes cast on Jan. 6, 2021, he said that “the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes.” Note the emphasis added there. He wasn’t saying there was fraud. He was just responding to others saying it.

Others have been saying this about New Hampshire for a while, actually. In 2017, Trump — eager to suggest that he’d won the popular as well as the electoral vote — claimed that thousands of people were hauled from nearby Massachusetts to vote against him.

This doesn’t make much sense, in part given that the Republican running against Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bolduc’s opponent this year, lost more narrowly than Trump did. (Did the illegal voters only get to the top of the ticket?) Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub asked Trump to provide evidence of this “fraud” so that the FEC could investigate, to no avail. Various New Hampshire officials weighed in to dismiss the assertion as baseless.

At the time Trump elevated the idea, I did a little back-of-the-envelope math. If we assume that 10,000 people showed up to vote in the state on Election Day 2020 (the number cited by Bolduc), all of whom traveled there by bus, that’s going to require 179 full school buses, assuming 56 seats per bus. If they all came at once, that’s a mile-and-a-half of school buses, pouring into New Hampshire. But if they didn’t, that’s still 181 opportunities for someone to see what was happening.

One of the New Hampshire officials who weighed in back in 2017 was Fergus Cullen, a city councilor in the town of Dover, N.H., and a former chairman of the state Republican Party. That experience in hand, he issued a challenge on social media in 2020.

In a phone call with The Washington Post, Cullen confirmed that his thousand-dollar challenge in 2020 had gone unmet.

“It’s like Bigfoot, right?” he said. “Everyone’s got a smartphone with a camera. You’d think Bigfoot sightings would go up. In fact, you’ve got none.”

An update for Don Bolduc: Granite Staters are concerned about the number of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) they aren’t seeing in their state. Clearly, officials need to respond to that.


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