Secretary of State finds no student voter fraud but maintains system is vulnerable

AUGUSTA — An investigation into allegations of voter fraud has turned up no cases of blatant wrongdoing, but Maine's top election official said Wednesday it does point to a need to overhaul an election model that dates back to the state's origins.

Charles Summers
Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press

Charles Summers

"Our election system is long overdue for a comprehensive reexamination of our methodologies and ways in which we govern our elections," Secretary of State Charlie Summers said during a news conference in his office. "We're still operating on an 1820 law, but this is 2011."

While his probe turned up no hard pattern of fraud and one 9-year-old case of a non-citizen voting, it showed a system that's "incredibly vulnerable" to fraud, said Summers. One example, he said, is a state requirement to keep voting records only two years.

Another weakness, Summers said, is the lack of a single definition of residency. He said several definitions are spread through the state's statutes. Summers said he will develop reforms for the Legislature to consider when it returns in January.

The investigation was requested nearly two months ago by state Republican Chairman Charles Webster, just as a "people's veto" referendum campaign to restore Maine's election-day registration system and repeal a law requiring two days' wait began to heat up.

Webster and other Republicans have maintained that same-day registration opens the door to widespread fraud and abuse, and that the two business days' wait would give election clerks time to weed out would-be voters who seek to cast ballots in Maine. Webster said he'd uncovered more than 200 cases of possible election fraud, mainly among students attending state universities.

"Secretary Summers has demonstrated that Charlie Webster's allegations against those 206 students were false, were outrageous, and perhaps were defamatory," said David Farmer, spokesman for Protect Maine Votes, which is leading the campaign supporting the repeal. "That's really inexcusable and it shows a pattern of trying to scare students into not voting."

Webster said Summers' findings underscore the need to give local election officials more time to examine registrations so they can spot ineligible voters.

"Without a period of time for town clerks to do their work, a lot of things can happen," said Webster.

Summers said that of all of the students, five were found to have voted in Maine and another state in the same year — but not in the same election, while 44 were registered in Maine but not their "home" state. Nearly a dozen students left the "previous address" question blank, so their registrations should have been thrown out.

In all, Summers' office checked a sampling of 428 names, a small fraction of 1 percent of the more than 972,000 voters listed in Maine's Central Voter Registration System. Of all cases suggesting potential fraud, 84 percent were due to clerical errors, most of which occurred on Election Day, the secretary said.

The sampling of 428 names on the central voter list showed just over 1 percent to be non-citizens. Only one of the non-citizens was confirmed to have registered and voted in Maine, and that was in 2002. That person has since left the United States, Summers said.

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RONALD RIML's picture

Charlie Summers should know voter fraud when he sees it.....

Charlie Summer should be no stranger to 'Voter Fraud'

Like me, he grew up in Illinois. Open the paper on any given day, turn on the television, the radio - have a cup of coffee with your buddies; and the talk turns to what Politico has been brought down for what.

Chicago is the "City that Works" for good reason - the skids are greased with votes and $$$, and the job gets done. Two 'Mayors' Daley knew how to pull it off, and they weren't called 'Boss' for nothing.

And everything outside of Chicago is called "Downstate" - they run that out of Springfield - the Capital. While the Daley's never got touched, four out of the last eight Governors of Illinois have been convicted of felonies. One, George Ryan, still locked up in Federal Prison, was from my home town; his brother was my Mayor when I was a cop, and my old Chief of Police wound up with George in Club Fed for some shaky dealings getting him to the Governor's mansion.

Yep.... spend any time at all in Illinois and you know full well about 'vote fraud' - and Charlie Summers can't be blind.

If all Charlie can find in Maine, according to his report, is 'mistakes' then you know damn well we're doing it right here. And mistakes aren't 'fraud' Anybody who's breathed fresh air in Illinois for any amount of time should be able to tell you about 'Vote Fraud' - even a blond headed kid from Kewanee named Charlie Summers.

David  Cote's picture

Time to move on, Charlie

The result is in...Was there ever a doubt?

RONALD RIML's picture

Clueless Robert

Robert Reed Opines:

"the Sec of State DID find a person who should not have voted as a non-citizen thus a fraud occurred"

Robert, do you have any idea of what conditions constitute 'Fraud?' By reading your posting above it is obvious that you are quite clueless. 'Fraud' requires intentional deception. Mistakes don't count. And one has to 'prove intent'

And it's very lucky for a lot of people that mistakes don't count - because the entire system is rife with them - that's what humans do - make mistakes.

Read Charlie Summers entire report --> Secretary of State Charlie Summer's Report - Sept 21, 2011

RONALD RIML's picture


Robert Reeds pontificates: "now excuse me while I go to work for the day, something some of you know even less about than you know about voting."

And you know even much less about the Military - having declined the opportunity to sign on the dotted line that check which Uncle Sam could have cashed with your life, eh, Robert.

You are indeed the essence of sanctimoniousness as your side seeks to disenfranchise voters through this organized campaign of registration and rule changes.


What a load!

Thank you for pointing that out. I guess some people have a really hard time admitting they were wrong and it seems to make them especially arrogant.


Nationwide effort to suppress the vote

This is all part of a nationwide effort to suppress the vote of those most likely to vote for a Democratic or moderate candidate. The two Charlies know this. They are not stupid, but like all party hacks, they do what they are told.

The Supreme Court - an activist conservative one at that - made the decision that college students could not be denied the right to vote in the college town. It has diddly to do with residency and everything to do with the same court that made GWB President. Webster and Summers both know that.

They also know that the accuser gets the headlines and the refuter usually ends up with two column inches on the classified page. So, they try to keep it going.

FWIW, I was registered in 3 places once. My former home in Alaska, my temporary home with my in-laws in Mass., and here in Wilton. I suppose that by using absentee ballots I might have voted in all 3. I've learned that those who point fingers at others are usually pointing out their own character traits. Maybe the Charlies would have and then snarkily laughed about using the system to beat the system.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Soldiers vote in two places?

Soldiers voting in two places is news to me! I was a voting officer in the Army, you registered by mail to vote, by absentee ballot, in your home of record; not in the state/country in which you were serving unless your intention was to live there and attempt to establish residence. As the Secretary of State said in his comments; he is not staffed properly to oversee this process and must rely on town clerks to do their job. The assertion that the two day requirement is unreasonable is the real smoke screen out there and I hope the people of Maine realize this and vote to keep the law in place; the next prudent step should be photo ID. If we lose faith in the ballot box we are in real trouble; perhaps that is the agenda of some out there. These steps are reasonable and prudent and should remain in place and please stop treating seniors as if they were infants by insinuating that they will have trouble meeting a two working day deadline or producing a photo ID. The people who we should be concerned with are those who think we should not ensure that only those who are eligible cast a ballot maybe you should ask them why; Hope is never a course of action in my, but verify!

RONALD RIML's picture

You obviously were an Officer and forgot your enlisted days.

Enlisted's know "If isn't broke - don't fix it"

As Command Senior Chief Petty Officer - it was one of my tasks to implement and explain any/all new horseshidt Rules and Regs continually concocted by "On-High" as they continued to justify their own top-heavy existence.

And Voter Registration wasn't broken in Maine - there was no fraud.

But this latest crop of Republican majorities have descended upon the States as locusts upon the fields in tightening up voting regulations and opportunities in attempts at disenfranchisement.


Much ado about nothing

So there we have it. Nobody voted twice in the same election which is illegal. Some people voted twice in the same year in different places which is legal. A lot of people do this other than students. Snowbirds, soldiers and people who work in different states for extended periods of time to mention a few. Charlie's problem isn't with voter fraud but with residency requirements which is not even mentioned in the proposed same day registration law probably because the requirements he would like to see are unconstitutional. So he wants to sneak around this by making voting as inconvenient as he can for those people he wants to disenfranchise. By the way the one guy who did vote illegally was caught which makes you wonder what all the hype about vulnerability is worth.


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