AUGUSTA — The chairman of Maine's Republican Party on Monday released what he said is evidence of ongoing voter fraud in the Pine Tree State.
Charles Webster, a former state lawmaker from Farmington, said he had discovered 206 people who were registered to vote in Maine but were also enrolled in Maine's public university system as paying "out-of-state" tuition rates.
Some, he said, are not even residents of the United States and others voted both in Maine and in their home states or went between the two deciding which state to vote in depending on the election or issues.
Webster's release comes in the wake of a petition drive that aims to repeal, by a statewide ballot initiative, a recently enacted and Republican-sponsored state law that eliminates Maine's same-day voter registration system.
Under the new law voters will have to register at least two business days prior to an election in order to vote. Supporters of the new law, like Webster, say it's an attempt to reduce voter fraud in Maine.
But opponents of the new law have said the new law will suppress voting and voter turnout. They have also said there is no proof of widespread voter fraud in Maine and over the last few decades only two cases have been prosecuted.
Webster presented his findings to Maine's Secretary of State Charlie Summers, who said he would look into them, according to The Associated Press.
Webster also provided a list of names to the media but most of the identifying information was redacted. On Webster's list were only the alleged voter's first initial, year of birth and out-of-state hometown.
"I have been around Maine politics for over 30 years and have been concerned with voter fraud for a long time," Webster said during a news conference at the State House. For months Webster has asserted some have exploited Maine's same-day registration by flooding the polls with newly and even illegally registered voters on Election Day. But during his news conference Monday, Webster said he began a formal investigation into the matter only three weeks ago.
Webster said in seven to eight days he and his secretary doing telephone research were able to cross reference the names of out-of-state tuition paying students with voter registration records. Webster also said that his research found that many of out-of-state students claimed their parents' homes for purposes of residency in the 2010 Census. It's evidence, according to Webster that, people who should be ineligible to vote in Maine have been allowed to do so.
According to Maine state law, students are eligible to register to vote in the municipality in which they attend school, as long as they have established residency there. There is not a period of time required for a person to establish residency. The University of Maine System has different guidelines to establish student residency. A student may only be granted in-state tuition if he or she has proven that she has established residency for reasons other than academic, regardless of the length of time that he or she has lived in Maine.
According to the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions, a student may still vote in his or her home municipality, but may only maintain a single residence in which they may vote. "This may not be construed to prevent a student at any institution of learning from qualifying as a voter in the municipality where the student resides while attending that institution," according to its website.
Webster said Monday that special interest groups were, "poll flooding" voting places in an attempt to win.
Webster, a former state lawmaker, has won several decisive elections in his hometown of Farmington, the host town for a University of Maine campus. On Monday, he said the issue was not a partisan one for him.
"The simple fact that 206 people, here on 'out-of-state' tuition, are actually voting to decide who will represent our communities in the state Legislature ought to concern Mainers," Webster said in prepared remarks. "I don't even care who they vote for."
Republicans have won the local vote in last two gubernatorial contests in Farmington. In 2006, voters there selected Republican GOP candidate Chandler Woodcock, a hometown favorite, over the incumbent Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat from Bangor.
Woodcock won 337 more votes than Baldacci, who prevailed on the statewide ballot. In 2010, Paul LePage, the Republican, won Farmington over independent candidate Eliot Cutler with 251 more votes than Cutler. Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell was a distant third with 744 votes.
In other Maine college towns, including Lewiston, the home of Bates College and Waterville, the home of Colby College, in 2010 Cutler came in second place to LePage.
In Brunswick, home of Bowdoin College, LePage placed third behind both Cutler and Mitchell and in Orono, the hometown for the University of Maine's flagship campus, Cutler won, with Mitchell placing second and LePage in third.
In Gorham, the home to the campus of the University of Southern Maine and one of the town's highlighted in Webster's evidence, LePage finished second in 2010, only 37 votes behind Cutler, with Mitchell again in third place.
Webster said Monday that 51 out-of-state students voted in 2010 in Gorham.
"These 'out-of-state residents' could have made the difference on who would represent those Mainers living in Gorham," Webster said. "I ask you — who is disenfranchised in this scenario? Individuals who are not residents — should not vote on local matters. I am convinced my research proves that fraud is a problem and I have only found the 'tip of the iceberg.'"
Meanwhile, according to records compiled by Maine's Secretary of State, a total of 4,468 Democrats registered to vote on Election Day 2010 compared to 4,405 Republicans who registered to vote on Election Day.
Those hoping to restore Election Day registration in Maine said Webster had not offered any definitive proof of election fraud.
"He didn't present any evidence of anything," said David Farmer, a spokesman for Protect Maine Votes, a political action committee working to repeal the newly enacted law banning same-day registration. "He didn't even claim that he could document any of the supposed irregularities that he was pointing to occurred on Election Day."
Evert Fowle, Kennebec County district attorney and a supporter of same-day voter registration, said there have been very few complaints about voter fraud in Maine and even less evidence of it.
"My office aggressively prosecutes violations of the law," Fowle said, also in a prepared statement. "We have never had any suggestion made to us that the Election Day registration of voters has led to the commission of any criminal acts. The lack of prosecution has to do with the lack of any allegation suggesting abuses of the present system, much less any proof to back up any such assertion.”