A legislative committee on Wednesday split votes on a bill that would prohibit the secretary of state from running for governor or federal office during his or her term. The State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the amended version of L.D. 947, which is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville. Johnson’s original bill would have prohibited all three of the state’s constitutional officers — secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer — from running for higher office. While Johnson argued that the attorney general and treasurer face severe time constraints in trying to hold a full-time job and campaign, he said the secretary of state faces the additional burden of the appearance of conflict of interest. “There’s merit in not having someone in office overseeing their own elections,” he said.
Every now and then, a commission report comes out that provides solid information and analysis, and helpful recommendations on what state government ought to do. That’s the case with the Elections Commission appointed by former Secretary of State Charlie Summers last year amid various voting controversies, and received by his successor, Matt Dunlap. Unaccountably, the report was leaked to the Huffington Post on Tuesday, with the regrettable effect of producing early news stories but no coverage of its actual presentation to the Legislature’s Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But the report is well worth reading, both for its conclusions and the fair-minded way it considers the evidence. If politicians take heed, it should help settle controversies over Voter ID, Election Day registration and absentee balloting well into the future.
A special commission studying Maine’s election system has given a firm thumbs down to the suggestion that Maine adopt voter ID. The Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine, which was appointed last May, released its findings today. Tom Porter has more. “This is an excellent report,” says Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. Dunlap gives high marks to the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine, which was appointed last May, and came to its findings after holding eight public hearings, “They worked very, very hard on it,” Dunlap says. “And it’s a reflection of some very, very honest work, based on feedback they got at their hearings.” Dunlap told members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that the he agreed with commission’s 4 to 1 vote to reject voter ID, a measure that would require voters to present identification before they cast a ballot.
Maine: Panel rejects voter IDs, backs early voting | The Portland Press Herald | Maine Sunday Telegram
A state commission has recommended that Maine reject any effort to require voters to show identification at the polls. By a 4-1 vote, The Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine said in a report that there is “little or no history in Maine of voter impersonation or identification fraud.” It also said such a law would slow down the voting process and could work to disenfranchise elderly, poor or rural voters, many of whom don’t have IDs or may not be able to travel far to get them. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine applauded the report, which also asks the state to establish an early voting system, in which residents would be able to cast ballots before Election Day. Early voting would require an amendment to the Maine Constitution, as is being proposed this session in a bill sponsored by state Rep. Michael Shaw, D-Standish. There is no pending legislation to require IDs.
A shortage of voter registration cards on hand at the Maine Secretary of State’s office is frustrating some groups and candidates who are launching drives to enroll new voters. The Maine Democratic Party says the secretary has dispensed up to 1,000 cards at a time in the past. Now that number has dropped to 50. Officials at the Secetary of State’s office say they are merely updating their forms and that new cards should be available next month. Colleen Lachowicz showed up at the Secretary of State’s office last week to pick up some voter registration cards. As a Democratic state Senate candidate from Waterville, she thought might use some of her campaigning time to register new voters. Although the Secretary of State’s Office commonly allows candidates such as Lachowicz to take up to a 1,000 cards, she says that’s not what she got. “I was told they only had 250 left so they said they could give me 20,” she says. “And I said, ‘Could I have 50?’ And so I was able to get 50 of them. And they had me sign a paper saying they could give me 50.” Lachowiscz says she can’t help but wonder about the effect the state’s current rationing system is having statewide. “I’m just concerned that if there’s only 250 of these things left, I’m sure there’s more than 250 people that want to get registered to vote at this time.”
Members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted to direct the Secretary of State to conduct a thorough study of Maine’s election system, a move that ends a controversial carryover bill that sought to require voter identification. Two weeks ago, Secretary Charlie Summers sent an annual report to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on the state’s Central Voter Registration system in which he called his yearlong review of voter registration data “troubling.” Summers said although most of the problems were related to human errors by municipal officials rather than intentional fraud, those errors contributed to inaccurate and unreliable state voter data.
A bill that threatened to reignite last year’s heated debate over voting rights appears to be heading to the legislative attic, at least for another year. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday tabled a voter identification bill and expressed willingness to gut the proposal and replace its language with a resolve directing the Secretary of State Office to propose voter reform legislation next year. The initiative follows a report by Secretary of State Charlie Summers that suggests non-residents have voted in Maine elections.
Last Tuesday, Mainers went to the polls and successfully defended Same-Day Registration in their state. Earlier this year, the Maine legislature had repealed the decades-old practice based on baseless claims of rampant voter fraud — fraud that Charlie Webster, Chair of Maine’s Republican Party, and Charlie Summers, Maine’s Secretary of State, failed to prove, try as they did, after dramatically launching an investigation of 206 University of Maine students originally from out of state.
Young would-be voters are being picked on all over the country — from the photo ID laws that don’t allow student IDs (as opposed to concealed handgun licenses) to changing domicile requirements so that out-of-state students are prevented from voting — because students are “foolish” and “vote with their feelings.” Plus, now they are also poor, so they really shouldn’t vote.
Maine: House supports banning same-day voter registration, requiring IDs at polls | Bangor Daily News
The House of Representatives on Monday gave preliminary approval to a pair of bills that will change how and when Mainers vote. The House voted 74-70 along party lines to approve LD 1376, a bill backed by Republican leadership and Secretary of State Charlie Summers that eliminates Maine’s 38-year-old, same-day voting registration and bans absentee voting two business days before Election Day. The House also voted 75-69 to give preliminary approval to LD 199, a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls.
Proponents of LD 1376 say the legislation is designed to ease the workload of town clerks overwhelmed by an increasing number of voters who cast absentee ballots and who wait until the election to register. But critics counter that the absentee voting issue should be handled separately and without eliminating same-day registration, which they say will affect students, the elderly and the disabled.
Maine: ACLU Asks Justice Department to Investigate Potential Voting Rights Act Violations by Maine’s Secretary of State | The Free Press
This week the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine (ACLU) and the ACLU Voting Rights Project asked the US Department of Justice to commence an investigation into potential Voting Rights Act violations by Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers.
In a five-page letter to Summers they documented their concerns “about your recent actions targeting legally registered student voters in Maine for investigatory action and sending them threatening correspondence likely to deter them from exercising their voting rights. Such actions provide strong evidence that you are violating federal statutory protections against intimidation and coercion of individuals in the exercise of their right to vote, as well as constitutional protections of the right to vote.”
Maine’s high ranking for voter turnout may change as a result of new legislation ending same-day voter registration. After thirty-eight years, a sleeping (political) giant is now awake in the Pine Tree State. In June of 2011, the Maine State Legislature repealed the long-standing law permitting Mainers to register to vote on the same day as elections, and replaced it with a new law prohibiting same-day voter registration.
Pursuant to LD 1376, Maine now requires that all in-person registrations occur no later than the third business day prior to the election date. Maine’s departure from being one of the country’s eight states to offer same-day voter registration was not a landslide victory. In the House, seventy-two representatives voted in favor, while sixty-five were opposed and thirteen representatives were absent, and the Senate showed a similar divide with seventeen votes in favor, fourteen against, and four excused.
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.
A conservative advocacy group has stepped into the public debate over same day voter registration in maine. the Maine Heritage Policy Center has created a ballot question committee to oppose the restoration of registration on election day. Supporters of the so-called “people’s veto” effort, who want same day registration restored to Maine law, said the conservative group must disclose its funders. The MHPC said it is not about to agree to that request.
Earlier this year, Republicans in Augusta pushed through a change in Maine law, eliminating same-day voter registration in the state. To support the move, they’ve tried to create a link to cases of voter fraud. Supporters of same-day registration said the fraud issue has no merit whatsoever, and have launched a people’s veto campaign to restore the old law. But Lance Dutson of the Maine Heritage Policy Center said that an investigation into sample ballots by Secretary of State Charlie Summers indicates there are significant flaws in the process. “What our concern is that Maine’s structure right now doesn’t provide any real protections against fraud — basically folks are on the honor system,” Dutson said.
At a Wednesday press conference, Maine’s secretary of state said an investigation turned up no cases of voter fraud from a list of out-of-state students created by the chairman of the Maine Republican Party. A July list presented to the Maine Office of the Secretary of State by Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster gave the names of 206 students at four state university campuses — including some from the University of Maine — he said were registered to vote in Maine and out of state.
But Wednesday, Secretary of State Charlie Summers said most of the students on Webster’s list were, contrary to the chairman’s claim, registered to vote only in one state: Maine. And none of them voted in the same election twice. “I’m not surprised he didn’t find students voting twice, because I didn’t find any of those,” Webster said after the conference, saying he merely pointed out possibilities.
“What Charlie Summers’ press conference really showed today is that Charlie Webster was on a witch hunt,” said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House minority leader. “Students of Maine were vindicated today.”
Editorials: Overheated or reheated? Fraud claims leave us cold | Bill Nemitz:/The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
In a perfect world, Secretary of State Charlie Summers’ press conference on Wednesday would have produced one of two story lines.
The first: Summers stuns the state with clear evidence of widespread fraud by voters who illegally registered and cast ballots in Maine on past Election Days.
The second: Summers, conceding that his two-month search for same-day registration fraud has come up dry, apologizes to Maine citizens for wasting their tax dollars on a wild goose chase.
But this, as we’re all painfully aware, is not a perfect world. So here we are once again, stuck with story line three: Summers, unable to back up the Maine Republican Party’s claims that same-day voter registration has suddenly become a threat to our democracy, sets off a smoke bomb and screams, “Fire!”
Or, as the secretary himself put it, “Essentially we’re at the point where the system is very overheated.” Oh really? Let’s go to the numbers.
Maine: It’s Official: Students in Maine Weren’t Committing Voter Fraud, Despite GOP’s Allegations | Campus Progress
Remember when the chair of the Maine Republican Party waved a list of 206 college students’ names in the air, claiming each of them had committed voter fraud despite having no hard evidence? Well, it turns out the hoopla was just that—inaccurate rhetoric intended to suppress young people’s desire for civic engagement.
Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers spent two months investigating the students and found that none had committed voter fraud, according to the Bangor Daily News. Of the 206 students on Webster’s list, 77 had registered in their home state and then again in Maine, but none cast more than one ballot in a single election.
Webster seemed to be a wild goose chase for potentially evil, malicious student voters, as more than a third of the 206 students he claimed were registered in two states simply weren’t.
Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers on Wednesday will announce the findings of a joint investigation into what he called the “questionable voter activity” of college students, and also whether non-citizens have successfully registered to vote. Summers launched his investigation in late July, a couple days after he was presented with information by Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster.
Webster suggested that 206 out-of-state students attending public Maine universities should be questioned and investigated for possible voter fraud. Specifically, the state GOP chairman wanted to know whether those students had established residency in Maine or whether they voted twice — in Maine and in their home state.
In the past, courts have ruled that students can consider a college dormitory their primary residence, which would allow them to vote in that community even if they are not full-time Maine residents.
Maine: People’s veto of same-day voter registration ban will be Question 1 in November | Bangor Daily News
Maine’s secretary of state has certified enough petition signatures to ensure a statewide people’s veto referendum in November that asks voters to support or reject a new law banning Election Day voter registration.
Charlie Summers made the announcement late Thursday afternoon, exactly 30 days after Protect Maine Votes, a coalition of progressive advocacy groups, submitted more than 80,000 signatures for consideration.
About 70,000 of those signatures were validated, well above the 57,277 required of the campaign by state law. “More than a thousand volunteers worked tirelessly to protect a system that has worked well for more than 38 years,” said Mark Gray, campaign manager for Protect Maine Votes. “There’s no reason to change it.”
Mainers will have an opportunity this fall to affirm or overturn legislation passed in June to repeal the state’s 38-year-old law allowing voters to register on the day of an election. Secretary of State Charlie Summers validated more than 70,000 signatures — about 13,000 more than needed to force the referendum– on Thursday, about a month after opponents of the new legislation submitted them.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the voter registration law largely along party lines. Supporters of the measure said that eliminating same-day registration would help ease the workload of municipal clerks, even though a representative of the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association said the group wouldn’t mind maintaining the practice.
The prohibition on same-day registration cannot take effect while a people’s veto is pending. A portion of the law that sets new limits on absentee voting is not part of the people’s veto effort and will not be affected by the referendum.
Maine: Voter database breach came from Millinocket, Secretary of State says no information compromised | Bangor Daily News
The Secretary of State’s Office said Thursday that it appears no personal information was compromised during a potential security breach of Maine’s Central Voter Registration database.
The apparent breach was the result of malware — or malicious computer software — found on a workstation computer in the town clerk’s office in the northern Penobscot County town of Millinocket.
“I want to update the public with our initial findings and assure all Mainers that appropriate action has been, and will continue to be, taken to protect all personal information located in the Central Voter Registration,” Secretary of State Charlie Summers said in a statement.
The Maine Secretary of State’s Office said Wednesday it is investigating a potential security breach in the computer system that contains records on Maine’s registered voters. The state was notified Wednesday afternoon by the cybersecurity monitoring arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Maine’s Central Voter Registration system had been compromised. The breach was detected as part of a regular security check.
Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers said a computer in an undisclosed town office apparently had been infected by malicious software — commonly known as malware — that may have then infected the centralized data system.
“I am in the process of assessing what, if any, information has been compromised,” Summers said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “I have taken immediate action to shut this computer down and disable the username and password assigned to the town clerk.”
Maine: Former Secretary of State Dunlap says timing of voter fraud investigation is “questionable” | wlbz2.com
Former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has made no secret of the fact that he’s seriously considering running against Senator Olympia Snowe.
Secretary of State Charlie Summers used to be Snowe’s State Director. So when Summers held a press conference last week talking about potential voter fraud and destruction of evidence that may have occurred under Dunlap’s watch, Dunlap had some questions.
Dunlap said, “It is questionable timing, and I don’t know what the answer to that is. It doesn’t look very good in terms of being a politically active as Secretary of State, which by the way, there is no prohibition on.”
Former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap asserted Monday that allegations of possible voter and identity fraud made last week by current Secretary of State Charlie Summers were resolved several years ago, shortly after they first surfaced. Dunlap said Summers would have learned that fact had he simply called him before gathering reporters and television cameras last Thursday to announce a broad investigation.
“I wish he had talked to me first,” Dunlap said in an interview Monday. “A little bit of homework prior to the press conference might have canceled the press conference.”
During that event, Summers referenced as the basis for his investigation a July 1 conversation with a Bureau of Motor Vehicles employee who expressed concerns about “noncitizens” trying to register to vote. The employee told Summers that she had brought her concerns to the Secretary of State’s Office under previous administrations and was told to disregard the activity. She also said she was advised to destroy evidence she had collected to support those claims.
Supporters of a people’s veto campaign to restore Election Day voter registration were obviously concerned when Secretary of State Charlie Summers announced last Wednesday that he was holding a news conference to discuss what his office described as “preliminary findings regarding voter fraud allegations.”
The group’s anxiety was partially attributable to fears that Summers may have discovered voting impropriety within Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster’s mysterious — some say dubious — list of 206 out-of-state college students. But more worrisome to the coalition was the scene that unfolded the next day in Summers’ office.
A throng of television cameras, radio and print reporters awaited his remarks. Supporters of same-day voter registration knew that visuals of Summers in his office would appear on that night’s newscasts, that afternoon’s newspaper websites and in print the next day.
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster hand-delivered to the Secretary of State’s office on Monday the names of 206 individuals whom he believes committed voter fraud in the 2010 election. Webster said his recent research has concluded that the state’s election system is rife with abuse and he called for the secretary of state and attorney general to investigate his claims.
All 206 names — which were not provided to the media — were students at one of Maine’s public universities in 2010. Webster said if he had access to enrollment data for the state’s private colleges, he believes the list of potential violators would be in the thousands. “This ought to concern Maine residents,” he said late Monday morning from the State House. “This fraud is outrageous.”
Secretary of State Charlie Summers released the wording Wednesday for a people’s veto ballot question, marking the unofficial start of a campaign to repeal a law passed last month to end same-day voter registration in Maine.
A coalition of groups led by the League of Women Voters of Maine wants to gather at least 57,277 signatures to get a question before voters in November or next June. The bill to end same-day voter registration was supported by most Republicans in the Legislature.
The question released by Summers reads:
“Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Law of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?”
One of the more controversial decisions of this year’s legislative session is still being debated – and may ultimately be decided at the ballot box.
Lawmakers voted to eliminate election-day voter registration in the state. The Maine Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters and some other groups are angry, and are launching a “people’s veto” campaign to overturn the new law. For 39 years, Maine has allowed people to register to vote up to and including Election Day itself. In 2008, roughly 49,000 voters registered on Election Day. In 2010, according to the Secretary of State’s office, about 18,000 registered on Election Day. But that law has now changed.
Maine: LePage signs bill banning same-day voter registration, but critics vow to fight | Bangor Daily News
Gov. Paul LePage has signed a controversial bill that bans voters from registering on an election day, but critics who say the law disenfranchises voters have vowed to challenge that change through the citizens’ referendum process.
The governor signed LD 1376 on Tuesday, along with several other bills that have come across his desk in recent weeks, but did not offer any comments, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said.
The bill, an Act To Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process, was sponsored by House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, and endorsed by Secretary of State Charlie Summers, In addition to eliminating same-day voter registration, the legislation bans absentee voting two days before Election Day.
A law that would require Maine voters to present photo identification for every election is still before the Legislature, though it has failed to gain the two-thirds support it needs for passage. While a majority of senators voted against the bill, lawmakers eventually decided to send it back to committee for revision.
Also uncertain is the fate of a recently passed bill that would eliminate Maine’s 38-year-old law allowing same-day voter registration, with at least one group vowing to lead a people’s veto campaign against it. Opponents of both measures say they are part of a nationwide Republican effort to restrict voting by certain populations.
“Voter suppression bills have been advanced in states all across the country with the effect of surely reducing voter turnout in the next elections,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.
She said the bills would affect young voters, elderly voters and those who struggle to get time off from work to vote.
Maine: Secretary of State supports bill eliminating same-day voter registration in Maine | Bangor Daily News
Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Republican leaders are supporting a bill that would eliminate Maine’s 38-year-old same-day voting registration and ban absentee voting two business days before Election Day.
Proponents say the bill is designed to ease the workload of town clerks overwhelmed by an increasing number of voters who cast absentee ballots and who wait until the election to register.
But critics counter that those voters often are students, the elderly or disabled. Groups such as the Maine Civil Liberties Union believe LD 1376 is an attempt by Republicans to gain an electoral advantage.