ACLU: Investigate governor for telling students to obey election law
Maine Republican governor Paul LePage should face a federal inquiry for his remarks on Monday suggesting that college students obey state laws regarding voting, residency, vehicle registration, and taxes, according to the ACLU’s state chapter.
The governor warned out-of-state students in a press release that if they vote in Maine, this automatically establishes their residency, which would mean re-registering their vehicles and getting a Maine driver’s license within 30 days.
Meanwhile, Maine secretary of state Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, called voting a “fundamental right” that is not tied to a driver’s license or vehicle registration.
The governor’s remarks may discourage “civic participation” by students, according to the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“The message came as representatives from Maine’s Democratic and Republican parties denounced the discovery of phony legal advisories distributed on the Bates College campus in an attempt to confuse millennial voters,” reports WMTW. “The fliers make false claims about the requirements for voting in Lewiston, including that voters must pay money to change their licenses and re-register their vehicles in order to vote.”
There is no indication that Gov. LePage had anything to do with the fliers.
Here are some of the governor’s comments, from his Nov. 7 press release:
“Democrats for decades have encouraged college students from out of state to vote in Maine, even though there is no way to determine whether these college students also voted in their home states,” the governor said in a statement. “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.”
Shocking, no? Here’s the ACLU’s reaction:
“The governor’s statement seems designed to make college students afraid to vote,” said Zachary Heiden, the legal director of Maine’s ACLU, which also vociferously opposes voter ID laws. “Voter intimidation and harassment is illegal, and we call on the Department of Justice to investigate the intent of the governor’s comments.”
Now, how to get inside the head of Maine’s outspoken governor to determine his intent? Perhaps Attorney General Loretta Lynch could hire a psychic to read his mind?
This is the same Justice Department, if you recall, whose highly partisan lawyers dropped voter intimidation charges against New Black Panther Party members who were caught on video dressed in military camouflage and wielding batons to scare voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. Apparently, Justice officials saw no clear intent of intimidation. Heck, every polling place might benefit from having thugs wielding batons and yelling at voters. Just not a governor who wants people to obey the law.
It will be interesting to watch whether the Justice Department finds a governor’s admonition for out-of-state students to follow the law to be worthy of investigation for possible prosecution.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union.