By Dan Merica, CNN
Matt Mowers, the former Trump administration aide who is running for Congress in New Hampshire, voted twice during the 2016 primary, according to voting records obtained by CNN, opening the Republican candidate up to criticism from his opponents and charges of hypocrisy from Democrats.
Mowers, then a top aide in New Hampshire to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign, cast a ballot in the Granite State’s critical February primary, according to the city of Manchester’s official voter checklist for the contest.
Christie’s presidential campaign was short lived, though, and after the New Jersey chief executive finished sixth in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, he dropped out of the race and eventually endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump.
Mowers, however, cast another ballot in a presidential primary four months later, according to documents obtained by CNN, using his parents’ New Jersey address to re-register in his longtime home state and cast a ballot in the state’s June Republican primary.
The fact that Mowers voted twice in the 2016 primary, which was first reported by the Associated Press, opens the Republican candidate up to legal questions and accusations of hypocrisy as the Republican has made election integrity a central issue in his campaign.
Mowers responded to the Associated Press reporting by attacking Democrats and saying he was “proud to work for President Trump as the GOP establishment was working to undermine his nomination and accepted a job with his campaign in 2016, registered to vote and casted my vote in accordance with the law, and served as an elected Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention.”
At no point in the statement does Mowers deny that he voted twice in the 2016 primary process.
One of the most frequent attacks against Mowers in the New Hampshire Republican primary has been his ties to the state he hopes to represent, something that will be fueled by his decision to re-register in New Jersey in 2016. Mowers also cast his ballot in the 2016 general election in New Jersey, according to voting records.
“While I’m running the bill in NH for a full forensic audit of the 2020 Presidential election, @mowers is potentially breaking federal law by voting in BOTH NH and NJ,” Tim Baxter, a Republican state representative who is also running in the Republican primary, tweeted on Tuesday. “My question for ‘#JerseyMowers’: Are you running to represent #NH01 or NJ?”
The story could be particularly potent in New Hampshire, a state where Republicans have looked to crack down on who can vote in their elections, especially targeting transient populations and short-term residents like students.
It is unlikely that Mowers will face any prosecution for voting in two states in 2016. While New Hampshire law says “a person is guilty of a class B felony if” they “knowingly” cast a ballot in New Hampshire and “also casts a ballot in the same election year in any election held in any other state or territory of the United States,” the law says one defense could be if the “person legitimately moved.”
Michael S. Garrity, spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, told CNN on Tuesday that the state’s “Election Law team is aware of the Associated Press report and is reviewing the matter.”
Charlie Spies, a Republican lawyer who has known Mowers for years, said the law around the issue of voting in two primaries is a “gray area” and called the chance the candidate could face legal trouble because of it “non-existent.”
“Mr. Mowers moved to New Jersey, established residency there and then had a pattern in voting in New Jersey. It is an open question whether the election referred to in the statute would be a party controlled primary election in one state, versus another state months earlier,” Spies said. “Even if it were a clear violation of a clear statute within the statute of limitations, which it is not, but even if it were, there is no evidence, that I am aware of, of anybody having been prosecuted.”
The political ramifications for Mowers, however, could be more dramatic than the legal.
Mowers’ Republican opponents have already seized on the story, wasting no time to note how the candidate voting twice in the same primary cycle is out of step with the Republican focus on securing elections, an emphasis that has been spurred by Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
“My opponent… potentially violated election law, and he is hiding behind his attorney, calling the report ‘silly,” Karoline Leavitt, another former Trump aide running in the New Hampshire primary, wrote on Twitter. “This is a very, very serious allegation. Election integrity matters. Voters deserve truth and @mowers owes them an honest answer.”
Gail Huff Brown, another candidate in the Republican primary, tweeted, “The Republican Party is the party of election integrity, and we cannot nominate someone who has engaged in voter fraud and expect to be taken seriously on the topic. We can do better.”
Mowers, like many Republicans running in 2022, cites election integrity as a central issue to his campaign, writing on his website that “nothing is more important or sacred than each American’s right to vote” and backing “establishing effective voter ID laws, regular audits of elections to verify vote totals and provide every American citizen with the certainty that their vote counts.”
Mowers also specifically notes that he supports Republican efforts in New Hampshire to “improve our own voting laws so that only legal residents of New Hampshire are entitled to vote, and voter ID is required.”
Republicans have made New Hampshire’s First Congressional race a top target in 2022, hoping a pro-Republican national environment will help unseat Democrat Rep. Chris Pappas, who defeated Mowers by 5% in 2020.
Mowers is married to a senior video producer at CNN.
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