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.