Secretary of State Charles Summers has sent a letter to about 200 of the Maine university students cleared in a recent voter fraud investigation, advising them to either get a Maine driver’s license and register their vehicles in Maine or relinquish their right to vote here.
The one-page letter cites Maine election law, which requires that voters be Maine residents, and state motor vehicle laws, which require that new residents who drive get a Maine driver’s licence and register their vehicles here. In the letter, Summers requests that students “take appropriate action to comply with our motor vehicle laws within the next 30 days.” If students decide they aren’t residents after all, he asks them to fill out the enclosed form to cancel their Maine voter registration.
Summers said he sent the letters because he’s responsible for both election and motor vehicle laws as secretary of state, and he felt he had to follow-up on the approximately 200 people who said they lived here but who were not listed in the state’s motor vehicle database. “I’m made aware that there are people who may not be in compliance like everybody else in the state of Maine — that’s why I sent it out,” he said. But others say the letter was an attempt to intimidate the students and manipulate them into giving up their right to vote here.
“My car registration ran out at the end of September. Now I renewed, but I’m a registered voter (and) I didn’t get a letter from Charlie Summers asking me if I was going to re-register or if I wanted to unenroll to vote,” said David Farmer, spokesman for Protect Maine Votes, which is fighting to reinstate same day voter registration in Maine. “He singled out these students and there’s only one reason to do that and that’s to scare them.”
“Imagine you’re an 18-year-old kid, a 19-year-old kid, and you get a letter from the secretary of state threatening you with a Class E crime. It’s easier to just say, ‘Yeah, you know, I don’t know if I want to get involved in this mess.'”
The letter does not explicitly say that failure to get a driver’s license or register a car can be considered a Class E crime, but it does cite the specific statutes, sections, and subsections in Maine law that do. Although Class E crimes are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, the letter also does not say what the consequences might be for any of the 200 students who stay registered to vote and do not get a driver’s license or register a vehicle here.
Casey O’Malley’s parents found the letter threatening. Although O’Malley, a 21-year-old University of Maine at Farmington student originally from Rhode Island, doesn’t have a car here to register or drive, her parents insisted she fill out the form that came with the letter and cancel her voter registration in Maine.
“They instantly were worried about legal ramifications if I didn’t follow through on what the letter said, if I didn’t completely remove my voter registration from Farmington,” O’Malley said.