US

Trump’s aide seeking NH House seat voted in 2 states in 2016

CONCORD, NH (AP) — A former Trump administration official currently running for Congress from New Hampshire voted twice during the 2016 primary election season, potentially violating federal voting law and leaving him at odds with the Republican Party’s intense focus on “election integrity.”

Matt Mowers, a leading Republican primary candidate seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, voted by mail in New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential primary, according to voting records. At the time, Mowers was presidential campaign manager for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the early voting pivot state.

Four months later, after Christie’s bid failed, Mowers voted again in New Jersey’s Republican presidential primary, using his parents’ address to re-register in his home state, documents which The Associated Press obtained through a public records request.

Legal experts say Mowers’ actions could violate a federal law that prohibits “voting more than once” in “any general, special or primary election.” This includes voting in separate jurisdictions “for election to the same candidacy or office”. It also puts Mowers, who was a senior adviser in Donald Trump’s administration and later served in a State Department post, in a sticky spot at a time when much of his party has embraced the former’s lies. president about a stolen election in 2020 and pushed for restrictions. new electoral laws.

The question could have particular resonance in New Hampshire, where Republicans have long advocated stricter voting rules to prevent short-term residents, namely students, from participating in its first presidential primary in the country.

“What he did was vote in two different states for a president, which on the face of it appears to have violated federal law,” said David Schultz, a professor at the faculty of law from the University of Minnesota, specializing in election law. “You get a bite out of the voting apple.”

Mowers’ campaign declined to make him available for an interview. In a brief statement that did not address the double vote, campaign spokesman John Corbett cited Mowers’ work for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“Matt was proud to work for President Trump as the GOP establishment worked to undermine his nomination,” Corbett said. “Matt moved for work and was able to participate in the primary to support President Trump and serve as a delegate at a critical time for the Republican Party and the country.”

Mowers is unlikely to be sued. The statute of limitations has expired and there is no record of anyone being sued under that specific section of federal election law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is following the matter.

A separate New Hampshire law prohibits double voting in two different states, but makes an exception if someone “legitimately moved their home.”

Mowers is just the latest former Trump administration official to face scrutiny for potential violations of election laws.

Mark Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina who served as Trump’s chief of staff, was registered in two states and listed a mobile home he didn’t own – and may never have visited – as his legal residence weeks before voting in the 2020 election. North Carolina state officials are investigating.

Not everyone agrees that Mowers’ double voting is a clear case of voter fraud. To begin with, this is an underdeveloped area of ​​law. Any court would have to grapple with complicated questions such as whether a primary can be considered a public election or an event organized by a private organization administered with government assistance.

“With the right set of facts, it could be construed as a violation, but it’s just not at all clear to me that that’s the case,” said Steven Huefner, a professor at the University of Ottawa Law School. Ohio State University and majored in electoral law. “That’s a pretty obscure question.”

Charlie Spies, a longtime Republican election lawyer who contacted the AP at the request of Mowers’ campaign, called the case “stupid.” He said double voting was “a gray area at worst” of the law and “not the kind of issue anyone would spend time on”.

That may not matter in a congressional primary race that has drawn half a dozen Republican candidates. Among them is former Trump White House deputy press secretary Karoline Leavitt, who once attacked Mowers for being lenient on the issue of “election integrity.”

In September, after Mowers said President Joe Biden had deservedly won the 2020 election, Leavitt said Mowers “turned around and sided with Joe Biden and the Democrats by refusing to stand stand for election integrity”.

Mowers’ campaign called his criticism “fake news” at the time.

His own campaign website delved into the issue, with a section dedicated to “election integrity.” He says new rules are needed to “give every American citizen the certainty that their vote counts.”

He also echoes longstanding Republican criticism of out-of-state voters, endorsing the state legislature’s efforts to ensure that “only legal residents of New Hampshire have the right to vote”.

It’s not the first run Mowers, who is in his early 30s, has made for the seat, which is a top Republican target in the 2022 midterm elections. In 2020, he won the Trump’s endorsement and won the Republican nomination before losing to Pappas by 5 percentage points.

This time might be different, though. Biden’s low approval rating has left Republicans optimistic about their prospects. And thanks to a once-a-decade shuffle of congressional districts, Republicans who now control the state legislature and governor’s office are poised to endorse more advantageous maps.

Mowers is promoting his stay in New Hampshire with his wife and young child. But he’s not originally from the state, spending much of his life in New Jersey.

A graduate of Rutgers, he crossed paths with New Jersey politics, working for Christie’s governor’s administration, as well as Christie’s re-election campaign. This led to an appearance in the 2016 ‘Bridgegate’ trial, where Mowers testified about his failed attempts to get a Democratic mayor to endorse Christie, which resulted in retaliatory acts and ultimately two convictions of close allies. from Christy. Mowers was not charged with any wrongdoing in the case.

He moved to New Hampshire in 2013 to take on the role of executive director of the state’s Republican Party. He returned to work for Christie in 2015 to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign.

After Christie’s run for the White House, Mowers returned to New Jersey, taking a job with the lobbying firm Mercury. He joined the Trump campaign in July 2016 and eventually moved to Washington after landing a job in the administration.

He launched his first candidacy for Congress after leaving the White House.

Slodysko reported from Washington.

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