The head of Maine’s Republican Party defended himself on Thursday over comments he made about black people committing voter fraud in his state. In an interview with TPM, Charlie Webster said his remarks earlier in the week had been misinterpreted as racist, but he still insisted it was “unusual” to see so many black voters at the polls in an overwhelmingly white state. Webster had claimed in interviews with local media outlets that having a high number of blacks showing up at the polls could be a sign of voter fraud. He vowed to investigate. That investigation would be conducted using his own private funds after he steps down from his party post on Dec. 1, Webster told TPM.
Twenty-one-year old Gillian Demers says she was “more than a little afraid” when she received a letter from the state warning she may be breaking the law—by registering to vote. Last September, the University of Maine senior received a letter from Maine’s secretary of state, Republican Charles Summers, questioning her right to vote in her newly adopted state. Two hundred and five other students received the same letter, sent after the state’s GOP chairman, Charlie Webster, asked his GOP colleague to investigate if the students had the right to vote in Maine. Unless she met certain bureaucratic regulations like registering for a Maine driver’s license, Summers’s letter said, Demers would have to revoke her residency or be in violation of a law that could mean up to six months in jail. The letter is just one example of new laws and regulations rolled out largely by Republican-controlled statehouses over the last two years. Purportedly aimed at preventing voter fraud, the laws suppress the votes of students and minorities and, according to court records and interviews with political insiders from both parties, at least some GOP officials know it.
The Maine Republican Party is asking county and town chairman to resubmit vote totals from last week’s presidential caucuses after reports of missing and incorrect vote totals have thrown Mitt Romney’s narrow win over Ron Paul into question. A significant revision in the vote totals could be the second high-profile embarrassment for a state Republican party in the still-young campaign, after Iowa Republicans announced more than two weeks after their first-in-the-nation caucus that, in fact, Rick Santorum had defeated Mitt Romney. Romney had edged Santorum by eight votes in results released by the party on election night. “We are confirming the totals from the presidential preference straw poll,” an e-mail from the Maine GOP sent Thursday said, according to the Portland Press Herald. “Can you please email me the totals from your towns?”
The Maine Republican Party has added additional votes accidentally omitted from Saturday’s caucus results, state party chairman Charlie Webster told The Daily Caller Wednesday. But those votes won’t be publicly released. “We don’t want any more drama,” Webster told TheDC. “I’ve already got death threats and 1,800 emails.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was declared the victor in Maine over the weekend, claiming a slim 194-vote lead over Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Republicans are pressuring their party’s leaders for a recount of Mitt Romney’s narrow victory over Ron Paul in Maine’s closely watched Republican caucuses. And some say it may be time to get rid of Maine’s quirky process for selecting presidential candidates and switch to conventional primary elections – with voting booths and counting machines. “If we are to do a primary, we need to bring that up before the Legislature,” said Kim Pettengill, a Republican State Committee member representing Kennebec County. “I, for one, am going to see if we can do that, (and) I’ve talked to other people who feel the same way.”
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: 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.”
The ACLU of Maine and two national groups are calling on the secretary of state to apologize to nearly 200 Maine university students for telling them they needed to either get a Maine driver’s license and register their vehicles in Maine or relinquish their right to vote here.
In a five-page letter sent to Secretary of State Charles Summers on Monday, the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and Demos, a national policy and advocacy organization, said Summers targeted the students and sent them a letter the groups called “threatening” and “likely to deter them (the students) from exercising their voting rights.”
A spokesman for the ACLU of Maine said there is no connection between the right to vote and registering a car or getting a driver’s license, and the Secretary of State’s Office should not have tied them together.
Editorials: Who Stole the Election? Dominating many state legislatures, Republicans have launched a full-on assault on voting rights | American Prospect
When Charles Webster was a member of the Maine House during the 1980s and 1990s, he and his Republican colleagues routinely proposed bills that would create restrictive voting laws—or, as Webster sees it, legislation to tamp down on the rampant threat of voter fraud. “Every year we tried to solve this problem,” he says, “and it was always a partisan vote,” with Democrats supporting laws intended to increase turnout. As a result, Webster says, “We have one of the most loosey-goosey, lax election laws in the country.”
Others would call Maine’s voting laws a striking success. Most states struggle to get citizens to the polls; national turnout for a presidential election hasn’t topped 60 percent since 1968, and turnout for midterm elections hovers in the 30s. That puts the United States far below the participation level in other Western democracies. Yet for the past four decades, Maine has stood apart. With an array of regulations that encourage voting—the state has allowed voters to register on Election Day since 1973—Maine consistently places among the top five states for turnout. Seventy-two percent of the eligible population voted in 2008 when Barack Obama carried the state.
Republicans like Webster, who now chairs the state GOP, argue that too many people are voting in the state—at least, too many illegal immigrants, out-of-state college students, and people who live in hotels. “What I don’t want is somebody coming in stealing elections who doesn’t live in the town,” Webster says.
Voting Blogs: College Students and Voter Fraud: Charlie Webster’s Maine Problem | State of Elections
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster is “on a mission to make Maine a better place.” The trouble is, the “better place” he envisions lies on the other side of what may be an insurmountable controversy.
Since famously brandishing a list of 206 alleged voter frauds—all college students—a few weeks ago, Webster has been branded the leader of a witch hunt. The chairman maintains that Maine law is very clear that residency must be established before voting. This is true, but Webster’s opponents on this issue are quick to point out that doing so is almost trivially easy, and certainly not beyond students’ ability. Webster insists on implementing several harsher residency requirements, such as paying income taxes.
He intends to prevent students attending schools away from their hometowns from voting in communities where their interests may run counter to the residents’. At the center of this issue is Maine’s Election Day registration law, which was repealed in June but may be on its way back from the grave. Webster contends that students—especially out-of-state students—who register and vote on their Maine campuses on a day-of basis may be committing fraud. Few such students think to notify their original place of registration of their new voting locale, and many are registered in two places at once. However, dual registration alone is not voter fraud, and Webster’s critics claim that Maine has virtually no issues with voter fraud, that voting machines are designed to protect against this issue, and that voter registries are routinely updated to account for changes of address.
Maine: Elections Chief Uses GOP List To Intimidate Student Voters And Encourage Them To Re-Register In Another State | ThinkProgress
The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.
The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.
In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.”
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’s Secretary of State released his findings Wednesday from an investigation into potential voter fraud and that report shows barely any evidence of wrongdoing. Secretary of State Charles Summers says his investigation of possible voter fraud didn’t turn up much. But he says it points to Maine’s election system need for an overhaul. “We have a situation in the state of Maine that if we don’t try to modernize our election practices and procedures, it will eventually lead us down the road where something breaks down,” Summers told reporters in his office Wednesday.
Summers report shows 77 students were found to have simultaneously registered in Maine and another state but that’s not necessarily illegal. “What I said was there were 77 students in both Maine and another state. It is fraud if they intentionally did that. It’s very difficult to prove it,” Summers said adding it most likely would not be prudent to even try prove that intent.
Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster claimed to have uncovered more than 200 cases of potential voter fraud committed by college students in Maine. Summers says five were found to have voted in Maine and another state the same year – but not in the same election. A driver’s license fraud investigation found one non-citizen, who’s left the United States.
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.”
Maine: GOP chair questions 19 voter registrations in 2004; probe reveals displaced medical students voted legally | Sun Journal
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.
The Maine Republican Party says 19 people who registered to vote on Election Day 2004 used a Holiday Inn Express in South Portland as their home address.
But the Sun Journal in Lewiston is reporting the 19 were American medical students who were “permanent guests” because their school on Grand Cayman Island was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The hotel manager told the paper that the students were sent to Maine to continue their studies while their school was under repair.
Maine: GOP chair: College students sully elections – UM student appearing on list of 206: ‘I’m not welcome here’ | The Maine Campus
Despite being labeled a witch-hunt by some and provoking claims that students’ voting rights are under attack, more than 200 college students are being investigated by the Maine Department of the Secretary of State following allegations of voter fraud. The active investigation, which involves the Office of the Maine Attorney General, stems from allegations made in July by Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, that 206 out-of-state students violated Maine election laws and committed “deliberate voter fraud” by registering to vote in two places.
Over the summer, Webster requested the names of out-of-state students at the University of Maine, the University of Maine at Farmington, the University of Maine at Machias and the University of Southern Maine’s campus in Gorham. He then compiled a list that was released publicly with the first initial, hometown and birth date of those he claims were registered to vote both in their hometowns and in the towns that house their schools. Webster contends that this is a clear violation of Maine election law.
The Maine Campus identified seven of the 206 students on the list who attend UMaine. Two were willing to discuss the issue at length. The others feared they would be further implicated in the controversy.
What is it about being from Belmont and being accused of voter fraud. Earlier this year, a fringe candidate for the Republican presidential candidacy claimed that long-time Belmont resident and fellow candidate Mitt Romney was committing voter fraud, an allegation – later proven baseless – that was quickly picked up by websites and left-leaning political cable television shows.
Now a Belmont resident studying at the University of Maine is now at the center of a growing controversy in which the chairman of the state’s Republican Party claiming out-of-state students were engaged in voter fraud, according to a Maine media site.
Christopher Knoblock is among 206 students on the list submitted in July by Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster to the secretary of state for investigation of voter fraud. “Webster is attempting to challenge students’ right to register and vote where they attend school, indicating some had registered in their home state and then re-registered on campus,” according to a report this week from the Bangor Daily News.
Charlie Webster sounds a lot like LeRoy Symm. Symm, the registrar of voters in Waller County, Texas, had a special questionnaire he used for college students. It included questions such as: Do you own property in the county? Where did you attend church? What are your job plans?
If Symm and his deputies knew a voter by name and face, they were simply registered. College students had to pass Symm’s test. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 said this violated the Constitution, thereby establishing the practice of allowing college students to list their dormitory as their residence for the purposes of voting.
Three decades later, the ruling has not deterred Webster, the Maine Republican Party chairman, who weeks ago brandished a list of more than 200 college students he said likely engaged in voter fraud.
Maine college students are under attack by the chairman of the state’s Republican Party who recently “brandished a list of more than 200 college students he said likely engaged in voter fraud.”
The problem? There’s no evidence that any of the 206 young people who voted in recent elections did anything wrong.
Republican Party chair Charlie Webster is attempting to challenge students’ right to register and vote where they attend school, indicating some had registered in their home state and then re-registered on campus, according to a report this week from the Bangor Daily News.
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.
Here’s a great economic development strategy for the oldest state in the nation — treat college-educated young people as pariahs.
Rather than encourage these people to begin to put down roots and get involved in the local community, ensure that you are as unwelcoming as possible. Accuse them of fraud. Blame them when local elections didn’t go the way you wanted. Put up barriers making it harder for them to vote locally.
Earlier this week, Charlie Webster, head of the Maine Republican Party, held up a list he said showed 206 college students from other states have illegally voted in Maine.
I have been avoiding this topic for the past couple of weeks because it has received plenty of coverage, but given GOP Chairman Charlie Webster’s latest actions, it was time for a college student’s take on the matter. For the past four years I have been a registered Republican in a college town and as frustrating as it often can be to go up against the liberal leanings of the area, restricting voting access is wrong and will not change the outcome of elections.
I am from Maine and have voted since I was 18, and never once was it in my hometown. I follow the local politics of the area I reside in and am most informed about the issues of that area. While I am not one of the students Webster has decided to target, I still take issue with his accusations. I’d also be curious to know where LePage’s children voted during their time (paying in state tuition?) attending college in Florida. If we are heading down this road, why not look at Maine citizens voting in other states while attending school. Does this concern Webster? No, because to him they represent one less liberal voting in a Maine election.
Maine: State GOP Chair: Students Who Vote And Pay Out-Of-State Tuition Are Committing Voter Fraud | TPM
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster is claiming that college students who pay out-of-state tuition rates and vote in state are committing voter fraud. At a press conference at the Maine State House, Webster gave the media a list of over 200 students — their names redacted — who paid out-of-state tuition rates but were registered to vote in the state.
Webster said he came up with the list because of opposition from voter rights groups to a law passed by the Republican-led legislature in June which banned voter registration on Election Day. A coalition of groups have launched a petition drive to overturn the law.
One problem. The University of Maine only allows individuals who previously lived in Maine — those who aren’t just living into the state to attend school — to pay a discounted in-state tuition rate.
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.”
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charles Webster said Monday he’s uncovered more than 200 cases of election fraud in Maine. And he says as many as 8 to 10 percent of the out-of-state students he saw registered to vote in Maine were registered to vote in two places.
Maine election law states that, in order to register, a voter has to declare Maine as his or her residence and intends to return there after absences. “Our election laws need reform and I believe are being abused,” Webster said at a State House news conference.
… Webster’s claims of fraud were quickly shot down by Democrats and leaders of a coalition trying to force a statewide repeal vote.
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.