A case of duplicate voter registration?

LEWISTON — Brendan O’Brien, former chairman of the Maine College Republicans, believes that plenty of students from away vote in Maine while living and attending college here.

Brendan O'Brien's Lewiston voter registration card. O'Brien registered to vote in Lewiston in June 2009.

He did.

“I’m not sure this is right and I’m not saying I fully support it, but a lot of college students do it,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien, who is from Mont Vernon, N.H., graduated from Bates College in May. At the tail end of his junior year in 2010, he ran for elective office in the Maine primary, seeking the District 73 seat representing Lewiston in the House of Representatives.

O’Brien's experience shows how the transient college population can get caught up in choosing where to vote. According to Lewiston city records, O’Brien registered as a Republican in June 2009 and voted that year in Lewiston. He remains on the city’s active voter list but, on Thursday, said he now lives in Greene and will soon be moving to southern Maine to attend law school.

“The way that people live now,” O’Brien said, “it’s very hard to say what your residency specifically is.”

He may also be registered to vote in New Hampshire, where he voted last November because he wanted to be among the Granite State residents casting votes for William O’Brien, who is Brendan O’Brien’s father. The elder O’Brien serves as speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

While he registered in both places, O’Brien said he never voted in both places "at the same time.” He did say, though, that he cast his vote in the town where he thought it would have the most impact. In November, that was New Hampshire. Before that, it was Maine.

Out-of-state students claiming residency in Maine for purposes of voting, even though they are not recognized as residents for purposes of tuition at public schools, has Maine Republican Committee Chairman Charlie Webster claiming voter fraud is highly likely among college students.

On Tuesday, Webster handed a list of 206 names of out-of-state University of Maine System students who are registered to vote in Maine to the Secretary of State’s Office for investigation of possible voter fraud.

The request for an investigation is part of Webster’s campaign against an effort to repeal a new law eliminating Maine’s same-day voter registration. Specifically, Webster said students are violating state law by being registered to vote in two places at the same time.

O’Brien could be registered in two places. He's aware that's not legal, but said the dual registration was not purposeful.

When he registered to vote in New Hampshire for November’s election, New Hampshire election officials should have reported that registration to officials in Lewiston so they could take his name off the voter rolls here. But as of Thursday, that had not happened. It may be that his hometown or the state has not forwarded his new voter registration information to Maine, city voting officials said, even though it’s been more than seven months since O’Brien completed the paperwork.

And while O’Brien registered and voted in New Hampshire last year, he said he is unlikely to vote there any time in the near future because he considers Maine his home.

“There’s no question about it,” he said, “my residency is in Maine.”

O'Brien said he doesn't agree with Webster's campaign targeting college voters.

"I don't have strong feelings that there is that much voter fraud going on in that regard," O'Brien said. "I don't see why it should be an issue in Maine. I think there are bigger issues for the party to focus on."

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Fair is fair

If it turns out that some Republicans were elected in those districts where college students allegedly voted twice then it seems to me that those elections should be declared invalid and a new election should be held. After all they wouldn't want to benefit from those votes would they?

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Of course, the same would

Of course, the same would apply to any Democrats or others elected, too. Right?

Gerald Weinand's picture

The Maine Republican Party

The Maine Republican Party wants to prohibit college students from voting in local elections. By eliminating same day voter registration, they think they are eliminating the opportunity for "impulsive" people to vote. In 2008, nearly 50,000 Mainers registered and voted on election day; in 2010, just over 18,000 did so. In towns all across the state.

To spite some college students, the Maine Republican Party wants to make it more difficult for Mainers statewide to vote. Including many Maine Republicans.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Oh, Please - Fling Mud, Much?

No, Gerald - the Republicans do NOT "want to prohibit college students from voting." Nor do they wish to "spite" some students, or "make it more difficult" for all Mainers to vote.

The aim of the new voter registration law is to prohibit ILLEGAL voting. Period. The aim of the new law (along with the proposal to require photo ID to get a ballot) is to ensure that only eligible Maine residents vote in this state, and that when appearing at the polls, they are, in fact, the actual person who is asking for a ballot.

I could just as easily write "Maine Democrats don't want the new law, because they want to make it easier for college students and other people to vote in Maine illegally and fraudulently."

Inaccurate, blanket statements don't sound quite as well when they're flipped, do they?

Gerald Weinand's picture

Naran: Please familiarize

Naran:

Please familiarize yourself with Symm v. United States, the 1979 Supreme Court ruling which established the right of college students to vote where they live while in school. Then watch Webster's press conference from last Monday, where it becomes obvious that his claims of fraud are bogus, that what it's really about is prohibiting out-of-state college students from voting in Maine - which is their legal right:

"Every November the people of Maine gather and vote on serious matters in their communities. Not only state issues, but very important local issues.

"Should we build a new school building?"

"Should we increase local property taxes to increase the fire department?"

"In the last election, a recount was held in Gorham, Maine, for a legislative House seat. The winning candidate one with 36 votes. In Gorham in the last elections, my research shows that 51 out-of-state students voted. These out-of-state students could have made the difference who represent those Mainers who live in Gorham. I ask you, who is disenfranchised in this matter? Individuals who are not residents should not vote on local matters."

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