While one group is calling for Maine’s Secretary of State Summers to resign another group calls on him to correct his mistake on a ballot question’s wording.
“Charlie Summers should resign his position as Secretary of State,” said Maine People’s Alliance Executive Director Jesse Graham. “Summers should resign not just because of the conflict of interest inherent in overseeing his own election, but because of his history of voter intimidation and suppression.”
Last year, Secretary of State Charlie Summers said that he would not be involved in the referendum campaign on same-day voter registration, acknowledging the obvious conflict of interest with his official position.
“I have really tried to back away from the campaign aspect of all of this. You know, as the person in charge of elections for the state, I’ve tried not to get too far into that water,” told the hosts of the WGAN morning show.
Summer did become involved in that campaign, however, using his office to amplify outrageous and false accusations of voter fraud in an attempt to swing public opinion and suppress the vote. Summers even went so far as to send a threatening letter on official stationary to a list of college students provided by GOP Chair Charlie Webster in order to deter them from exercising their voting rights.
A Sun Journal editorial called his tactics “intimidating” and “bullying”(1) and the American Civil Liberties Union found that he had violated the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.(2)
“Charlie Summers tried to stop students from voting and used scare tactics in an attempt to make it harder for all of us to register to vote,” said Graham. “Someone with a history of voter intimidation and suppression should not be administering any election, much less one in which he is a candidate.”
Now, as a candidate for U.S. Senate, Summers is once again blurring the line between his office and his campaign.
This week, when MPA member Sheryl Lee called the Secretary of States Office to get an official email address to comment on the proposed wording of the referendum on same-sex marriage, she was instead given contact information for his Senate campaign.
During the Republican Primary campaign, Summers’ opponents also noted that members of his state office staff were appearing at campaign events, wearing stickers, and distributing campaign literature.(3)
The other issue is that Summer’s did not put a question on the ballot as it was submitted by organizers who collected the signatures. When the activists submitted their signatures to Summers last year, they submitted a question that they want on the Nov. 6 ballot: “Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?”
Mainers United for Marriage said Summers did not word the initiative correctly for the ballot and the group was the mistake amended.
“The title of the law we’re proposing, which was approved by the Secretary of State last year, is An Act To Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom. This is the wording that was seen by the more than 105,000 Mainers who signed our petition,” said Matt McTighe Campaign Manager, Mainers United for Marriage.
“No matter what the final question says, the citizens’ initiative that will be before voters this November. It will allow marriage licenses for same-sex couples and protect religious freedom for clergy people and religious institutions.We will continue to work with the Secretary of State’s office to write a question that clearly and completely represents our initiative.”
The Maine People’s Alliance has launched a public petition calling for Secretary Summers’ resignation. It can be viewed and signed at www.mainepeoplesalliance.org/summers.