Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s chief elections official, is reminding college students and others in Maine that their right to vote is not constrained by other obligations involved in establishing residency in Maine.
"Every American citizen has the right to vote. Establishing residency for the purpose of voting carries with it no association to paying fees or taxes -- you don’t pay for a right,” said Dunlap. Residency obligations in Maine, such as vehicle registration and driver’s licensure, are administered separately from the elections process.
Secretary Dunlap is seeking to educate voters in the wake of misleading flyers (below) distributed at Bates College in Lewiston yesterday, which stated that students who vote in Maine must pay hundreds of dollars to switch their vehicle registrations and licenses in order to vote. These flyers seek to dissuade citizens from voting out of a fear of legal and financial repercussions.
“It says a great deal that these flyers have been distributed with no attribution as to who paid for them or who is responsible for their content -- which is illegal,” said Dunlap. “Attempting to prevent American citizens from participating in their democratic process of self-governance through intimidation and fear is shameful, and it should be treasonable.”
Governor LePage said, “Casting ballots in two different states is voter fraud, which is why Maine law requires anyone voting here to establish residency here. We welcome college students establishing residency in our great state, as long as they follow all laws that regulate voting, motor vehicles and taxes. We cannot tolerate voter fraud in our state.”
Governor Paul LePage’s statement this morning, which underscores the message in these flyers, ignores the fact that the public policies around driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and taxes are not related to anyone exercising their right to vote, and pose no barrier to the citizen.
“It’s very clear here that the Governor is trying to keep college students from turning out to vote in Maine. There are already fliers going around giving students false information about their right to vote here—the Governor should be calling out these lies rather than bolstering them," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “In Maine, we’ve always been proud to have some of the highest voter participation rates in the country. And students—whether they are from Maine or are residents while they attend school—have been a big part of that. They have a clearly established legal right to vote in our state if they choose to do. Their participation in our civic process is something we should encourage, not discourage.”
“Sadly, his statements only inflame an atmosphere of doubt and fear among the voters. I think it speaks loudly to how powerful the individual right to vote is when there are those who would keep citizens from wielding it,” said Dunlap. "Whether an individual obtains a Maine driver’s license or not has no impact on their ability to exercise their right to vote.
“The governor’s statement seems designed to make college students afraid to vote. Voter intimidation and harassment is illegal, and we call on the Department of Justice to investigate the intent of the governor’s comments," said Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine. “College students who live in Maine have the right to vote in Maine, and they are not subject to different laws than anyone else. Many of these young people are voting for the first time in a presidential election. The governor should be encouraging that civic participation, not doing everything in his power to undermine it.”
Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills has issued the following statement in response to questions about voting requirements for people in Maine.
“No one should feel that they cannot vote if they are a citizen of the United States, if they are 18 years of age or older and if they are a resident of Maine for however short or long a time. Whether you just retired here, whether you are living with family, whether you are here looking for work, or whether you are taking classes here, the requirements for residency in Maine are straightforward and uncomplicated and not related to stricter requirements for licenses, car registrations or tuition. No one should fear financial consequences for exercising their constitutional right to vote. There are no financial penalties, and it is shameful that anyone would suggest otherwise. I call upon leaders and candidates of all parties to disavow efforts of any sort to intimidate and disenfranchise voters. We should encourage every citizen to exercise his or her constitutional right to vote tomorrow,” said Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills.
For more information about declaring residency to vote in the State of Maine, visit the Maine Department of the Secretary of State website.