Published Date Written by David CarkhuffOutgoing Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster claimed Wednesday that new voters in Maine may have committed "election law abuses," and even offered to mail postcards to the newly registered voters to confirm their eligibility.
Besides questioning the eligibility of new voters, Webster set off a media firestorm by claiming that "dozens, dozens of black of people" came into Maine and voted on Nov. 6, comments that were part of an interview with WSCH TV.
"Everybody has the right to vote, but nobody in town knows anybody that's black — how did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out," Webster said in the TV interview.
Megan Sanborn, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, said Thursday that she expected telephone calls about recounts for close races, but instead she was deluged with media inquiries about Webster's assertions.
Webster's concerns were not mirrored by complaints or concerns from the general public, she said.
"We haven't had any calls or complaints in our office," Sanborn said.
"That's the first we've heard of anything," she added, referring to claims of election fraud in Maine.
Webster began to back away from his comments on Thursday, even removing a lengthy post from his Facebook page. The post read: "List me among the many Republican activists, who have been concerned for years regarding Maine's same day election laws. We always wonder and ask the question is their (sic) improper voting from individuals who are casting a vote either in the wrong voting district, or in more than one place. Since election day several activists have reached out to me to once again to claim that problems exist. In many small towns, hundreds of new voters, many that the local officials, election clerks, political activists and candidates have never seen or met. On at least a couple of cases, the new voters were clearly individuals that none of the 'locals' had ever seen before. Within the next couple of weeks we will finally put this issue to rest. I am sending, at least several hundred first class postcards, to the new voters who registered on election day. The postcard will welcome them and thank them for becoming new voters and directing them to the Maine Republican website. Hopefully none will be returned as undeliverable. We will see, it's time to see if election law abuses really occur."
Efforts to reach Webster for comment were unsuccessful, but late Thursday, he issued a statement to the press, which read in part, ""I apologize for my recent remarks about African-American voter turnout in rural Maine towns. It was my intention to talk not about race, but about perceived voting irregularities. However, my comments were made without proof of wrongdoing and they had the unintended consequence of casting aspersions on an entire group of Americans. For that, I am truly sorry."
Sanborn said the Secretary of State's office would not pursue an investigation based on Webster's concerns.
"Our office doesn't do anything on hearsay, if someone is at that polling location and questions it, they can put it in as a challenged ballot," she said.
According to state law, to be eligible to register to vote in Maine, a person must be a citizen of the United States; be at least 17 years old for primaries, if turning 18 by the general election; and have established and maintain a voting residence in their municipality. State law requires a government-issued photograph identification document or credential, government-issued ID without a photo such as a birth certificate; an "official document" such as a utility bill confirming residence; or "verified unique identifier" such as a Maine driver's license number (for details, visit http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes and click on Title 21-A.)
Same-day voter registration was preserved by voters following an effort to curtail it. In November 2011, voters approved Question 1, which asked: "Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Laws of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?"
When The Portland Daily Sun asked readers, "Does anybody agree with Charlie Webster that voter fraud may have occurred in Maine on Nov. 6?", the response was tilted sharply against Webster.
Maine Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, wrote, "Since when has Charlie Webster EVER been credible about voter fraud? He has turned into the Boy Who Cries Wolf."
Clyde H. Williams of Hallowell wrote, "I suspect widespread voter fraud in Maine is rare. That said, under the current rules, it would be relatively easy for a person to register and vote in several municipalities during an election."
Bill McDonough of Cape Elizabeth replied, "Seriously ... Charlie screwed up and let the Maine GOP down ... and instead of blaming himself (which a lot of these so called conservatives keep yelling about 'personal responsibilities' ) he goes and says a dumb dumb dumb statement like that and embarrasses the Great state of Maine."
Christian MilNeil of Portland (an occasional Portland Daily Sun contributor) wrote, "Charlie Webster commits fraud against the Maine Republican Party every time he collects a paycheck from those suckers."
Patricia Washburn wrote, "I only saw one polling place, of course, but I worked there for eight solid hours and saw nothing resembling fraud or even attempted fraud. I saw Democrats and Republicans working together to make sure the rules were followed and that everyone who was legally entitled to vote got a chance to do so."
While Webster came in for ridicule for his comments, not everyone is dismissing the possibility of election fraud in the Nov. 6 general election, although the focus is not on Maine, but the Midwest. A petition to the White House (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/recount-election/ZQmy0Mlv) seeks an election recount, stating, "It has become blatantly obvious the voter fraud that was committed during the 2012 Presidential elections. In one county alone in Ohio, which was a battleground state, President Obama received 106,258 votes ... but there were only 98,213 eligible voters. It's not humanly possible to get 108% of the vote! If ID laws had been enforced (which the administration is completely against because that meant they would lose) then this wouldn't be an issue. Recount NOW!"