AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Top Democratic officials are accusing Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage of intimidating college students by saying students who vote in the state Tuesday will be investigated to make sure they followed state law.
The governor’s comment comes after officials at a private liberal arts college in Lewiston said fliers distributed on campus with incorrect information about residency and fees are a “deliberate attempt at voter suppression.”
The orange fliers were found at numerous dorms at Bates College and at the school’s dining hall during the weekend. It’s unknown who’s responsible for the fliers.
The leaflets say to register to vote in the city, students must pay to change their driver’s licenses to a Lewiston address “within 30 days.” They also say students must pay “hundreds of dollars” to re-register vehicles and do not give a timeframe.
Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said the information is false and said enrolled students living in the community can vote. State law doesn’t require a Maine driver’s license to vote, and establishing residency for voting doesn’t mean you have to pay any fees or taxes.
“You don’t pay for a right,” said Dunlap. Any individual who declares Maine residency must follow rules like vehicle registration, but that process is completely separate from voter registration.
Dunlap said LePage’s comments “inflame an atmosphere of doubt and fear among the voters.”
Janet Mills, the state’s Democratic Attorney General, said there are no financial penalties for exercising the constitutional right to vote. College President Clayton Spencer called the fliers disturbing and said the school is working to ensure students have clear information about how to register and vote.
LePage said that after the election, “we will do everything” allowed under state and federal law to verify college students who voted are following Maine law. LePage’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment and provided no further details about what that means.
Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine, called on the Department of Justice to investigate the intent behind LePage’s statement. Heiden said LePage’s words appear “designed to make college students afraid to vote.”
LePage also claimed Maine Democrats have encouraged out-of-state college students to vote “even though there is no way to determine whether students also voted in their home states.”
In 2011, a two-month investigation led by Charles Summers, Dunlap’s Republican predecessor, found no instances of voter fraud in Maine after the head of the Maine GOP alleged more than 200 cases of possible election fraud by non-resident state university students.
The investigation found no students who voted in two difference places in the same election. Maine’s voter registration application asks individuals where they were previously registered to vote.
Summers also sent a letter to 201 students telling them they need to register their vehicles in Maine and get Maine driver’s licenses if they want to keep voting in the state.
Three advocacy groups then accused Summers of violating student voters’ rights by intimidating them.
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