CONCORD, NH (AP) — A former Trump administration official who is now running for Congress in New Hampshire voted twice during the 2016 primary season, potentially violating federal electoral law and aligning him with the intense focus of the Republican Party on “electoral integrity” conflicts.
Matt Mowers, a leading Republican primary candidate seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, cast a mail-in ballot in the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary, voting records show. At the time, Mowers was serving as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign director in the crucial early voting state.
Four months later, after Christie’s bid fizzled, Mowers cast another ballot in New Jersey’s Republican presidential primary, using his parents’ address to reregister in his home state, according to documents The Associated Press obtained through a public record have received show.
Legal experts say Mowers’ actions could violate a federal law that bans “voting more than once” in “general, special or primary elections.” This includes voting in different jurisdictions “for an election for the same candidacy or office”. It also puts Mowers, who was a senior adviser in Donald Trump’s administration and later held a post at the State Department, in a difficult position at a time when much of his party is facing the former president’s lies about a stolen election in the year 2020 adopted and pushed for restrictive measures new electoral laws.
The issue may have particular resonance in New Hampshire, where Republicans have long advocated stricter voting rules to prevent short-term residents, namely college students, from running in the nation’s first presidential primary.
“He voted for president in two different states, which on the face of it seems like he broke federal law,” said David Schultz, a law professor at the University of Minnesota Electoral Law. “You get a bite of the voting apple.”
Mowers’ campaign declined to make him available for an interview. In a brief statement that didn’t address the double vote, campaign spokesman John Corbett cited Mowers’ work on Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Matt was proud to work for President Trump as the GOP establishment worked to undermine his nomination,” Corbett said. “Matt made a career move and was able to compete in the primary in support of President Trump and serve as a delegate at a critical time for the Republican Party and the country.”
There is little chance that Mowers will be prosecuted. The statute of limitations has expired and there is no record of anyone being prosecuted under this particular section of the federal elections law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is tracking the issue.
A separate law in New Hampshire prohibits double voting in two different states, but makes an exception when someone “legitimately moves his or her residence.”
Mowers is just the latest former Trump administration official to launch an investigation into potential violations of election laws.
Mark Meadows, a former North Carolina congressman who served as Trump’s chief of staff, was two-state registered and weeks before voting in the 2020 election listed a mobile home he didn’t own — and may never have visited. North Carolina state officials are investigating.
Not everyone agrees that Mowers’ double voting is a clear case of voter fraud. For starters, it’s an uncharted area of law. Each court would have to deal with complicated issues, such as whether a primary could be considered a public election or an event organized by a private organization administered with government help.
“With the right facts, it could be construed as a violation, but it’s not at all obvious to me that it is,” said Steven Huefner, a law professor at Ohio State University who specializes in suffrage. “It’s a pretty grim question.”
Charlie Spies, a longtime Republican campaign attorney who contacted the AP at the request of Mower’s campaign, called the matter “silly.” He said the double vote is “at its worst a gray area” of the law and “not the kind of issue anyone would take their time on”.
That may not matter in a congressional primary that has drawn half a dozen Republican candidates. Among them is former White House Deputy Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt, who has previously attacked Mowers for being lenient on the issue of “election integrity.”
In September, after Mowers said President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, Leavitt said Mowers had “flipped and sided with Joe Biden and the Democrats by refusing to stand up for the integrity of the election.” “.
Mowers’ campaign called their criticism “fake news” at the time.
His own campaign website has addressed the issue and published a section on election integrity. It states that new rules are needed to “provide every American citizen with the assurance that their voice counts”.
He also echoes Republicans’ long-standing criticism of out-of-state voters and supports the state legislature’s efforts to ensure that “only legal residents of New Hampshire are eligible to vote.”
This isn’t 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 election. In 2020, he received Trump’s endorsement and won the Republican nomination before losing by 5 percentage points to Pappas.
However, this time it could be different. Biden’s slipping approval rating has left Republicans optimistic about their prospects. And thanks to a decennial redraw of congressional districts, Republicans, who now control the state legislature and governorship, are poised to approve more favorable maps.
Mowers is promoting his time in New Hampshire with his wife and young child. But he’s not a native of the state and spends much of his life in New Jersey.
A Rutgers graduate, he made his way through New Jersey politics, working for Christie’s governorship and Christie’s re-election campaign. This led to an appearance in the 2016 “Bridgegate” trial, where Mowers testified about his unsuccessful attempts to get a Democratic mayor to support Christie, which led to retaliation and eventually two convictions from close Christie allies. Mowers has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the case.
He relocated to New Hampshire in 2013 to take on a role as executive director of the state Republican Party. In 2015, he returned to work for Christie to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign.
After Christie’s White House run, Mowers moved back to New Jersey and took a job at lobbying firm Mercury. He joined the Trump campaign in July 2016 and eventually moved to Washington after landing a seat in government.
He launched his first run for Congress after leaving the White House.
Slodysko reported from Washington.