Maine GOP chairman not intimidated by call for federal investigation

LEWISTON — The outgoing chairman of the Maine Republican Party said Friday he was not concerned that the U.S. Justice Department may investigate comments he made about potential voter fraud in the November election.

Bangor Daily News (file)

Outgoing Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Friday he was not concerned about a call from the ACLU of Maine that it has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate him regarding possible voter intimidation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said Friday it had made a formal request of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to investigate Webster for trying to intimidate voters.

"They may want to try to intimidate me in some way, but if I make the decision to mail the postcards, threats from them won't intimidate me," Webster said Friday.

On Nov. 13, Webster said he intended to send postcards to newly registered voters to see how many were returned so he could tell whether those who registered to vote on Election Day lived where they said they did and were legal voters.

“In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day" Webster said in an interview with WCSH-TV in November. "Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in the towns knows anyone who's black. How did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out." 

Webster, of Farmington, later apologized for the racial overtones of his statements.

But he said Friday he wasn't worried by the ACLU's request and that he "may" still send out the postcards.

"If I do anything at all, it will be on my own personal dime, and it won't be anything I discuss until after," Webster said. "In other words, it wouldn't be a function of the Republican Party."

Webster said if he sends the postcards, it would be to thank people for taking the time to register and to vote.  

"It wouldn't single out any one person or anybody like that," Webster said. "The point would be, see whether they were registered voters or not, to see if they actually live there."

The ACLU of Maine has said Webster's proposal is in violation of federal voting rights laws that prohibit attempts to intimidate voters.

So-called "voter caging" schemes are prohibited by federal law, said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine.

“Nobody deserves to be harassed or intimidated simply because they attempt to exercise the fundamental, constitutional right to vote,” Heiden said in a prepared statement. “We have laws to prevent exactly this behavior, and we want to see those laws enforced.”

The ACLU of Maine made its request in conjunction with the Brennan Center for Justice.

“Across the country, we have seen individuals and groups use all sorts of tactics to make it harder for people to vote,” said Lee Rowland, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice. “Racially motivated voter harassment is not only illegal, it is also inconsistent with America’s founding values. We must keep elections free, fair and accessible for all.”

In 2011, Webster pushed the issue of same-day registration and claimed that hundreds of nonresident college students were voting illegally, and that in some places people were being bused in to vote. 

That eventually led to an investigation by Republican Secretary of State Charles Summers, who found no wrongdoing. Summers, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in November, was quick to denounce Webster's comments about black voters in rural Maine.

Summers' campaign manager, Lance Dutson, also called for Webster to apologize and to immediately resign from his post as the Maine GOP chairman, which Webster did not do.

The Maine GOP is expected to elect a new party chairman Saturday.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Charlie, give it up; it's

Charlie, give it up; it's over.

 's picture

3-2-1......and fade to

3-2-1......and fade to irrelevance........

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

How is this legal?

I'm wondering if, as a private citizen, I can just go to some government office and get a list of all the names and addresses of everybody who registered to vote in the last election. If this is legal, given all the domestic craziness that has been going on in this state lately, maybe it shouldn't be. If he is getting the names as a result of his office and using them as a private citizen then maybe this is not a legal, or ethical use of those names and addresses. It seems like a violation of people's privacy to me. Just sayin.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

It's all part of the game.....

I've tried to follow his logic from when I first heard of this "Friendly Gesture", good ole' Charlie, Just thanking the masses. He doesn't feel intimidated because there really isn't anyone to retaliate. He fabricated a fictitious group of people in a small town, thus justifying his need to verify everyone's address. Just a typical example of a dutiful Republican following the edict of their supreme leader Grover Norquist. I don't think this even warrants an investigation, what would it reveal? Nothing more than we already know. He's a Republican doing his sworn duty, you can't punish a guy for ignorance. Just let him fade into obscurity, and lets move on........

 's picture

Votes

If I was one of these african americans that Charlie Webster is talking about and he sent me a postcard, I would rip it up and throw it away. Sending postcards to see how many would come back will not prove anything. He is another Republican SORE LOSER.

Jeff Johnson's picture

'right to vote'

I love how the ACLU leaves out certain important conditions to suit their own purposes...

“Nobody deserves to be harassed or intimidated simply because they attempt to exercise the fundamental, constitutional right to vote,” Heiden said in a prepared statement. “We have laws to prevent exactly this behavior, and we want to see those laws enforced.”

Notice that they don't say anything about being a citizen? Yes, Virginia... you need to be a citizen to have the "constitutional right to vote".

I have to show my ID every day to enter the Federal Building in Augusta... To board a plane or train. To use my credit card. Someone please explain the big deal about requiring an ID to vote?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The big deal is that it

The big deal is that it denies potential cheaters of the opportunity to cheat, and there are more than enough of those to go around; they are called democrats.

 's picture

Requiring a photo ID to vote...

...will directly and adversely effect the elderly. That's a given. So my question is - are there more elderly in Maine or are there more of Charlie's angels?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Old people can't stand in

Old people can't stand in front of a camera long enough to have their picture taken? They have photos on their licenses, don't they?

 's picture

You're just...

...chock full of empathy, Paul. Here's a heartfelt hint - don't get old. It's not for the weak or faint of heart.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Sorry, friend, but you're

Sorry, friend, but you're preaching to the choir. One thing about getting old; it ain't for sissies.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Same here, Jeff

I agree with your comments, Jeff. The ACLU and the Brennan Justice folks should find something of actual merit on which to expend their valuable time.

Charlie Webster has committed no illegal actions.

The day it's a "Federal Offense" to ask questions and to talk about POTENTIAL actions, we can kiss the Constitution and the Bill of Rights goodbye.

This is nothing but grandstanding from the Maine ACLU and the Brennan Justice Center. Perhaps the holiday season has left them short on donations, and they figured the Webster issue could support the tinsel they're calling "evidence." That might explain the faux outrage, and the media puffery. Sounds better than the likely truth.

 's picture

The only illegal action...

...Charlie has taken is opening his uneducated mouth.

RONALD RIML's picture

Welcoming Maine's "Subject Matter Expert" on Faux Outrage

and most well-known practitioner: Ms. Naran Row-Spaulding!!!


Roger Moulton's picture

Get a grip people

Who cares if he said that a dozen or so black voters turned out in a town where nobody knew there to be black people to live. He didn't day we saw a bunch of those darn N words comin out to vote in this N word free town....It's a simple statement that he has heard about this happening. Is it really that strange to think that we have a town in Maine without any black residents? Or is it strange to think that if nobody knew of a black resident and a group showed up to vote that is would be noticed? Of course the ACLU has no problem with black panthers hanging out at polls. The ACLU and the liberal media in this state is the reason racism seems to be such a big problem still. There are black people in our state and referring to them as black is not racist. I'm white and I wouldn't be offended if I saw a similar comment from a black man about a white group of voters in an all black community. Unfortunately we can no longer use race as a description without somebody getting there undergarments in a bunch. Racism will always around, there will always be racists people but you nuts flipping out anytime someone says black, chinese, muslim, etc. only contribute to the issues (trust me the honky's are mad as heck about this article....lol) and also exaggerate them leaving the general public to think we have a bunch of ignorant racists in our state. Hey ACLU.......wait Lepage already said it!!!!

Andrew Jones's picture

Of course he isn't

Of course he isn't intimidated; he's a lame duck.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Quack quack quack....

.....all the way into oblivion. (the state of being forgotton, especially by the public)

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