State staging witch hunt for college voters

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster stood before reporters and TV cameras Monday waving a list of 206 college students who "may have conducted voter fraud here in Maine."

Then, on Thursday, Secretary of State Charlie Summers alleged that high-ranking officials in the Secretary of State's Office and Bureau of Elections destroyed documents showing that noncitizens had obtained driver's licenses.

Voter fraud. Motor vehicle fraud. What the two allegations have in common we don't know.

That's why the decision to combine them in one investigation raises suspicions that Summers and Webster are seeking to tap a natural suspicion of outsiders to taint a recently launched effort to reinstate same-day voter registration in Maine.

That possibility was raised by a coalition of groups now leading a signature drive to put the issue before voters.

We hope Webster and Summers come up with proof of this activity. What we've seen so far has been shaky at best.

Webster has merely produced a list of students who registered to vote in Maine, yet pay out-of-state tuition.

Voting twice in the same day is a crime, and should be punished. Two cases of that happening in Maine have been identified and prosecuted in the past 10 years, and neither involved out-of-staters, foreigners or college students.

Thursday, the former head of the Maine College Republicans told the Sun Journal he voted in Maine in one election and voted in New Hampshire in another.

That's not a crime, any more than when a "snowbird" from Maine votes at their resort home in Florida in one election and then back home in Maine in another.

Which makes us wonder why Webster has not produced a list of senior citizens with residences in two states. Or a list of retirees who live in Florida for tax purposes but vote in hometown elections in Maine.

That, of course, would be offensive to potential supporters, to accuse them without evidence. But Webster doesn't mind hurling such vague accusations at young people he suspects of voting for Democrats.

What Webster and Summers seem to be confusing are the varying definitions of residency.

We want out-of-state students to pay sky-high tuition so we call them nonresidents, even though they live here nine months of the year. That's because we want their money.

But various court decisions have established a different criteria of residency for voting purposes. If a person moves often, their residency status moves with them, as do their voting privileges.

Ironically, Webster claims liberal students from the University of Maine at Farmington have "flooded" the polls and affected elections there. Yet Webster himself was elected to office several times in Farmington and the town has produced a variety of other conservative legislators.

The real danger of the Webster/Summers investigation of voter fraud is its selectivity.

Rather than investigate to determine if there is election fraud in general, they are casting a net of suspicion over people they perceive might be political foes.

We should be looking at all people with multiple addresses, including snowbirds and Maine students studying outside the state.

It should be easy enough for election officials with access to voter rolls to tell if they filed absentee ballots in one place and cast ballots in another.

We eagerly await those results and hope they come quickly.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Cris Johnson's picture

Witchcraft revealed

There is only one way to determine whether you've uncovered a witch in our midst: Trial by immersion.

One binds the accused hand and foot and tosses the hapless soul into the water.

So today, 206 young folks stand accused and the Attorney General of the State of Maine (prompted by a notorious authority on evil doings) will investigate the findings of an eight day probe conducted by a man with a clear axe to grind and his dutiful secretary into their nefarious activities.

The accused will be subjected to the test. If they float, they will be executed, if they drown in waters of the Attorney General's probe they will be declared innocent.

But, of course, this is the way it must be in these dark days when witches surround us and threaten our very way of life. So it goes.

Jason Theriault's picture

It's just BS

It's been almost a year since the election, and they have a list of 206 students who, as far as they know, voted legally.

If they can't find out if these 206 students voted illegally in 272 days, how do they think they will be able to do it in 3?

Clearly, they saw that a majority of the same day registrations were of a demographic that was not friendly to them, and they decided to make it harder for them to vote.

Jason Theriault's picture

Sorry for the double post.

Sorry for the double post.

Jason Theriault's picture

It's just BS

It's been almopst a year since the election, and they have a list of 206 students who, as far as they know, voted legally.

If they can't find out if these 206 students voted illegally in 272 days, how do they think they will be able to do it in 3?

Clearly, they saw that a majority of the same day registrations were of a demographic that was not friendly to them, and they decided to make it harder for them to vote.

Gerald Weinand's picture

No one is suggesting that

No one is suggesting that Brendan O'Brien, the Republican college student mentioned in the editorial, broke the law by voting in Maine - it was his right to register to vote in Lewiston while attending Bates.

O'Brien ran for House District 73 in June 2010, and won the Republican nomination. O'Brien is from New Hampshire; his father, Bill O'Brien, is Speaker of the New Hampshire House.

Charlie Webster is a hypocrite: he loudly laments that out-of-state college students can (legally) vote in Maine while remaining absolutely silent about an out-of-state college student (legally) running in a local Maine election.

Bob Stone's picture

Vote Once

Every citizen should get to vote once per election. Not too much to ask.

Bob Stone's picture

The system is mighty loose now

I think the loose system more than counter balances subtracting 2 days from the registration window.

It is a fact that many dead or re-located remain on the voter rolls. The voter lists are available to anyone who wants to pay for them.

A person, who wants to vote in place of the decedent or re-located, can approach the election clerk and claim to be a person s/he is not. The clerk will check the voter list, check off the registered voter, and hand the fraudulent voter the ballot(s).

Where are the controls? The hole is large enough to drive Lewiston Ladder One through it.

Terry Donald's picture

Voting is not a game.

Webster has exposed himself as nothing more than a 12 year old interested in playing kiddie games with our elections. His admissions that he and his young republicans in Farmington thwarted efforts to use busses to help people get to the polls in November 2010 are borderline criminal, certainly unethical. His ignorance of state and federal law are obvious when he flaunts a list of 200+ out of state students registered to vote in Maine. If the head of the state republican party doesn't know that it is perfectly legal for out of state students to register and vote here, then what does that say for the rest of the GOP? I would suggest the Secretary of State and Attorney General toss that list of students in the trash, and pick up an investigation of Webster's actions last fall. To conspire with others to limit access to the polls sounds like a pretty serious crime to me.

Scott Fongemie's picture

It only takes ONE

If there are any suspicions then the Secretary of State should be doing the investigation. That is one of the duties, be it among many of the Secretary of States office. If even 1 name comes back as a possible infraction from the list which was created by Mr. Webster we should be thanking him for alerting the office of such. It should not be up to concerned private or public citizens to be doing any investigations. Yes Mr Webster had focused on college students but again this is not his responsibility. The responsibility is that of the SOS offices. Also anyone who has done any investigation or trouble shooting knows you need to start somewhere, the easiest way to narrow down the investigation is to find a group which is more likely to have be involved. Somehow I believe there would be no thanks or apology if the SOS office showed even ONE name from the list which had be fraudulent.

As for the argument "Eliminating Election Day registration only makes it harder for Maine people to vote. It makes it harder for people who are older, or disabled, or move often and have trouble getting to the Town hall or office to register a change of address." A Voter card can be located at any Town Office, City Hall, or BMV Branch. Written on the back of a Vehicle registration "If the name or address changes from that given on the registration, you must notify the Secretary of State within 10 days"
For a state of Maine ID, Maine law currently requires you to notify the Secretary of State within 30 days of any change in your name or address, you are also required to show proof of your Maine residential address to BMV branch office personnel before an address change request can be processed.
If a resident chooses not to complete the voter application at the time when they are already at the location doing an address or name changes then who's fault is it but there own. Or should we change these laws as well.


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