In the latest twist in the debate over same-day voter registration, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party on Friday questioned why 19 individuals staying in a South Portland hotel were allowed to register to vote on Election Day in 2004. As it turns it out, the individuals were American college students, who appear to have registered and voted legally.
Questioned by the Sun Journal, Jason Bartlett, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express on Sable Oaks Drive, said the students had been “permanent guests” at the hotel because their medical school on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean had been destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.
The 19 students, who came from states across the country, were among 383 students enrolled at St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine. All were displaced by the storm. According to Bartlett, the students were sent to Maine to continue their studies while their school was repaired. St. Joseph’s College in Standish assisted in the relocation program, according to a college spokesperson. The relocation was the subject of a Press Herald story published in September 2004.
Maine Republican Party Charlie Webster did not identify the individuals as students in his news release. He made no reference to the circumstances that led to their relocation to Maine.
“Mainers should be very concerned that 19 individuals, who all listed the same hotel address, were able to register to vote and cast a ballot, all on a busy Election Day,” Webster said in the release issued Friday morning.
Asked Friday if he called the hotel to inquire about the individuals, Webster said he didn’t. He added that their circumstances were irrelevant to his argument that town clerks need more time to verify whether the individuals were actual residents or had cast ballots elsewhere during the same election.