Webster says UMF College Republicans parked vans on Election Day 2010

FARMINGTON — The chairman of the Maine Republican Party said Friday that College Republicans at the University of Maine at Farmington worked to prevent university vans from being used to take student voters to the polls on Election Day 2010.

Charlie Webster, who has been campaigning against a group seeking to overturn a recently passed law that ended same-day voter registration in Maine, said in a phone interview that UMF's College Republicans reserved university vans to use on Election Day last November, but then parked the vans in a lot so they couldn't be used to take students to the polls.

Webster on Tuesday gave the Secretary of State’s Office a list of 206 names of out-of-state University of Maine System students who are registered to vote in Maine. Those students will be investigated for possible voter fraud.

The request for an investigation is part of Webster’s campaign against an effort to repeal a new law eliminating same-day voter registration.

Webster said Friday he was opposed to using the UMF vans for get-out-the-vote efforts because it constituted using a taxpayer resource for a political purpose.

"I believe it's totally inappropriate to use any taxpayer money for politics," Webster said. To combat that in 2010, Franklin County Republicans had a plan.

"Guess what happened in 2010?" Webster said. "The buses didn't run on Election Day because we had the College Republicans reserve them early and on Election Day we took them over and parked them in the Walmart parking lot."

Webster said using the vans to transport voters to the polls should be illegal. He believes that at a minimum, the practice its unethical.

"So we parked them for the day in the parking lot and we continued to drive people to the polls in our private-citizen cars and vans, but we didn't use taxpayer resources," Webster said. "We just reserved them early enough, before they got to them."

University officials confirmed that the College Republicans at UMF reserved three of the college's five vans available for use by student organizations. But there were no complaints that students couldn't get to the polls, the officials said.

Anne Geller, chairwoman of the Franklin County Democrats, said Friday that the tactic of trying to prevent students from voting by removing transportation options seemed to run counter to every democratic principle.

"As Democrats, we believe in giving people who are qualified to vote the opportunity to vote and in making it as accessible as possible," Geller said. "This is the United States of America and the more people who vote, the better."

If it's true that College Republicans took the vans out of service just to prevent them from being used to take voters to the polls, then the university's resources were being misused, Geller said.

"Because those vans were checked out for the use and the participation of the College Republican group, and if the College Republican group is trying to prevent students from voting, that's a very serious matter," she said.

"To me, it's not in the spirit of what the political clubs at a college should be about," she said. "They should be about educating students about the political process, and the political process shouldn't include tyring to figure out ways of trying to keep people from going to the polls. This is teaching students how to make something not happen. How can that be right, that a student is taught to make it harder for people to vote. How can that be right?"

Geller rebuked Webster's claim that taxpayer resources were being used for a political purpose when the vans were being used to transport college voters to the polling place.

She said if that were the case, all political activity at the college would have to be banned. For now, candidates, including Republican candidates, are allowed to set up tables and hand out campaign material at the student center on the UMF campus.

Republican candidates did that in 2010, and Republicans actually won the state legislative seats they were running for in Farmington, she said.

Geller also said that the university system is only partially funded by tax dollars and that students paying tuition for the education and services they receive were the ones who largely fund the system.

Karen Schuler, a longtime Franklin County Democrat, called the move to reserve the buses so somebody else couldn't use them "childish."

So far, she said, Webster has yet to prove any voter fraud has been committed by college students in Maine. Schuler said the only two cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted in Maine in recent years involved Republican voters.

Schuler drove a van for voters in Farmington in 2006. She said that van was rented from a local business and paid for by the Franklin County Democrats.

"This all started out with him claiming we were busing in all of these people," Schuler said. "The buses ended up being one van in 2006 and in 2010, no vans, because they reserved them all and hid them so the Democrats couldn't use them."

She noted that Webster hadn't made an issue of the many local nursing homes or other long-term care facilities for elderly people that bus voters to the polls on Election Day.

She said in recent decades only one Democrat, Janet Mills, had been elected to the Legislature in Farmington.

"Other than that, they've been quite successful at holding onto local seats, so we must not be doing a very good job of flooding the polls," Schuler said.

She said if the investigation by the Maine Secretary of State and Attorney General's offices doesn't produce any cases of college voter fraud, she hopes Webster will apologize.

Webster said Friday he was still convinced the system, especially with same-day voter registration, was being abused by college students. He said it was impossible for a polling clerk on Election Day to check quickly on whether a newly registered voter had already voted somewhere else.

Webster said Janet Mills' election win in 2006 was a classic example of poll-flooding. Republicans were leading in the polls until Election Day, when Mills' supporters, many college students from UMF — not Franklin County residents — flooded the polls, pushing Mills to victory.

"In most cases, the only time, if ever, it really matters is when you have very close elections for the state Legislature, usually for the House, and that's when, if you allow dozens, if not hundreds, of people to come in who are not citizens of the community and they can influence who is elected to that district even though they don't happen to share the views of the people in that area," Webster said.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Tricky

I find it offensive to have the head of the Republican party bragging about unethical behavior on the part of the University of Maine at Farmington Republican student body. It seems that the Maine Republican party is now more like Tricky Dickie (Nixon) than an honest organization. Unseemly to say the least.

 's picture

Prove it

You make comments that are not true. So, I say, prove that it is in violation of state and federal election laws for college buses to be used to bring students to voting booths. By the way, Saviello has been elected as a Democrat for that area. Of course, Saviello has been a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent and now again a Republican. He changes with the winds.

 's picture

Still???

You are still not offering any proof -- a title and section of law would be nice. If you offer no proof then you cannot be believed.

David  Cote's picture

A foolproof solution

This episode is a perfect example of how government can muddy up the political waters for the rest of us. How about a clear and simple solution... Repeal the law that denies same day voter registation, put the question on this November's ballot and let the voters decide once and for all. It seems way too much time and energy is being spent on this issue as it is. I don't care what Webster, Summers or anyone else has to say about this, and I don't care to see any proof one way or another. Put the question on the ballot, vote on it, live with the result and be done with it once and for all.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Reading Comprehension - It's a Good Thing

People need to calm down and read the article again. Charlie Webster didn't "prevent anyone from voting." He merely parked three of the university's five vans.

If students wished to vote, they could still get to the polls by any other means they chose. As the article states, nobody at the university complained that they couldn't vote.

Meanwhile, in response to Geller's comments in the article, there is a large cost difference between letting people hand out information on university grounds, and using publicly owned vans and petrol to transport people to the polls.

I agree with Charlie Webster - public money shouldn't be used for political purposes, outside the Clean Elections process.

Gerald Weinand's picture

Was it the intent of the UMF

Was it the intent of the UMF College Republicans to block use of the vans to bring voters to and from the polls on election day?

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

It doesn't matter what their

It doesn't matter what their "intent" was, Gerald. The fact is that nobody did anything that prevented any students from voting if they wished to vote.

Gerald Weinand's picture

Actually Naran, if there

Actually Naran, if there intent was to stop the vans from being used as part of a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort, then there may be some legal issues here.

Webster said, "The buses didn't run on Election Day because we had the College Republicans reserve them early and on Election Day we took them over and parked them in the Walmart parking lot."

Not only was there intent to block the use of the vans to help people vote, but it was a planned action.

Gerald Weinand's picture

You do understand the

You do understand the difference between denying access to civil rights and helping people to exercise them?

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Yes, I do understand that

Yes, I do understand that concept, Gerald. That's why I don't see the van reservations being a legal issue.

What's clear, however, is that you don't understand the difference between encouraging voter rights, and improper, possibly fraudulent use of public money to advance a certain political agenda.

That's why you don't answer the question as to whether it's wrong if the D's "instruct" the voters as to how they should cast their ballot.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

"If" is a very big word.

"If" is a very big word. "May" is yet another. One big word + another big word = two big words.

Are there legal issues with this situation?

"Probably not" are the two big words I choose.

Gerald Weinand's picture

Naran: You do know how

Naran:

You do know how rhetorical questions work, don't you? I asked "if" there was intent to set up the quote from Webster.

I do applaud your efforts at trying to put some positive spin on this story. But it's time to cut bait on this one.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

In the past, it's been

In the past, it's been alleged that the Democratic party has used the vans on election day, to canvass the whole town of Farmington, pick up voters, and ferry them to the polls.

During the van rides, did they "instruct" those voters on "good" candidates or issues to approve at the polls? Did they give the voters brochures, cards, or other information on the "good" candidates and issues, during the van ride, so they'd be well-equipped to vote for the "good" candidates and issues?

I would have more concern with activities of that nature, than I have with the UMF Republicans parking those vans for the day.

Public property and equipment should not be used for political purposes.

Christopher White's picture

Is this Maine or a Banana Republic?

Let's see if I understand Webster's point. If the GOP loses when they were running slightly ahead in the polls the answer MUST be fraud by hundreds of students voting illegally and perhaps more than once rather than an error in the pre-election polling, right? When the GOP wins, say in certain districts in Ohio, by a margin that defies all the polls, not mention simple mathematics, that can't be fraud. That would be credited to the excellent organizational expertise of the GOP.

When it comes to election day fraud the Dems had their day back in Chicago during the Daley era. The GOP has more than caught up in the last 20 years. Here in Maine the only major voting fraud scandals in recent decades have been perpetrated by the GOP.

And, regardless of which, if any, party might have fraud committed by someone on their behalf, this is NOT about "fraud". This is about suppressing the vote from any demographic group some right wing think tank assumes is more likely to vote D than R. There are no facts, no indictments, no proof of any fraud, only innuendo, anecdotes, and suppositions. Given that we have a Governor who was elected by a scant plurality in a 5 way race in which more liberal candidates took roughly 60% of the vote he and his Tea Party backers are expending every effort they can to distorting our voting system to help assure that the will of the majority continues to be thwarted in favor of their own ability to game the election system.

Gerald Weinand's picture

Will any prominent Maine

Will any prominent Maine Republican condemn this act of vote suppression? Will Gov. LePage? Or Sen. President Kevin Raye or Speaker Bob Nutting? Will Maine Republican rank and file condemn these actions, and Charlie Webster's unabashed attacks on the voting rights of others?

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

This Wasn't "Voter Suppression."

It wasn't "voter suppression," Gerald. Nobody prevented students from voting. Read the article - it clearly states that no students reported an inability to get to the polls. If the vans being unavailable was such a big deal, why weren't there hordes of angry complaining about being disnfranchised, and clamoring for their "ride"?

What the UMF Republicans did was take the public dollars out of the voting process. That is not the same thing as "voter suppression."

 's picture

Toss Webster in jail, now!

The local republican party members worked as a group to prevent college students from legally voting in 2010? That sounds like an open and shut case of voter fraud to me, conspiracy is a crime Charlie. This man looks more ridiculous every day. In his quote, "The buses didn't run on Election Day because we had the College Republicans reserve them early and on Election Day we took them over and parked them in the Walmart parking lot." I believe he admits to committing a crime! Who is now going to refer that evidence to the secretary of state and attorney general's office? Not that they would do anything since they were hand picked by LePage. Wondering how much input LePage would have had in those activities in Farmington?

 's picture

proud?

So, the greasy Webster republicans are proud of the fact they are actively discouraging and preventing legally entitled voters from voting? Could their hatred of democracy be any more evident?

Cris Johnson's picture

The World According to Charlie

Let's be clear about this: According to Charlie Webster, a student in residence in Maine from September through May and votes in November is an interloping felon, but a snow-bird who votes and then escapes south from December through March is a civic minded Mainer?

Did I miss something?

 's picture

yes you did miss something,

yes you did miss something, just drive around any campus in Maine and see how many out of state plates are on cars. http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/resident.htm Think about how much revenue is lost by not having the vehicles registered in the state. The snowbird has lived, worked, registered vehicles, and paid taxes in Maine, often for decades while the out of state student has no ties here other than to enlighten the rubes. They will be a felon if they voted here and back home because that disenfranchises all Maine residents who vote only once.

 's picture

Not missing things

But, if by the same token the student votes here rather than at home that creates a witch hunt. Now, I know a lot of out of State students who vote do jobs you would never dream of. Work with sexually abused students, work with children who have cancer, and pay the taxes, work free in the internship; yet because of "not being" from around here they should not have the right to vote. They also build ties to the community, to their teachers, to the community, and the atmosphere as a whole. You know something Johnny boy Clement if you have something to say here think about those who choose to settle down here for decades after having lived here for awhile. Also, food for thought you would have cowered and knelled to Hitler to save your own skin while De Gaulle would have disowned you just food for thought. You disown the college students simply for spite because you never made yourself out to what you wanted to be.

Gerald Weinand's picture

Students have a right to vote

Students have a right to vote where they live while attending classes. Please see Symm v. United States (1979).

 's picture

taxes

Paying taxes is a requirement to vote? Since when?

Cris Johnson's picture

Perhaps you should re-read the legislative cite you just posted.

With due respect, you cannot read the statute one way for students and another way for those who go Away for the winter. You are reciting Charlie Webster's patter and it doesn't fly under Maine law.

 's picture

Republicans

Nice to see the conservative base and bias of the Lewiston Sun Journal. Charlie Webster used this to block students from voting in elections and used his thugs within the colleges ranks to undermine the voting process in the elections. As the Sun Journal has proven it's conservative bias on face book in advocating that they had not received information from Webster and had themselves personally redacted it claiming he had not sent it to the media this shows a weak link in a once trustworthy newspaper.

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