Maine GOP Chair Continues to Scapegoat Legal Voters
In early September 2004, a swirling vortex formed over the Gulf of Mexico. It would grow to be Hurricane Ivan, the 10th most powerful recorded hurricane in the Atlantic, and would soon hit the Gulf States, causing $18 billion in damage. First, however, it devastated several Caribbean Islands, including Grand Cayman.
One of the casualties there was the St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine. The campus and nearby student housing was badly damaged and the medical students, many of them Americans, had to be relocated.
Luckily, the school had an existing relationship with St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, with whom they conducted a joint master’s degree program in health services. Through an agreement with the State, St. Matthews arranged to have all 383 of their students continue their education in Maine. They also arranged to have many of them stay at the Holiday Inn Express in South Portland as a temporary dormitory.
During the 2004 general election, several Americans living in the dorm registered and voted in South Portland, which, as has been well established recently, is completely legal.
Enter, seven years later, Maine GOP Chair Charlie Webster, whose impact on the credibility of the Maine Republican Party has been similar to the effect of Hurricane Ivan on the Caribbean.
Webster today sent out a press release strongly implying that 19 people who registered to vote in 2004 and listed the address of the hotel and dormitory on their voter cards were simply overnight hotel guests. He questioned their legitimacy as Maine voters and claimed that the fact they had registered to vote should be an argument against the referendum to protect Election Day voter registration in Maine (a cause I support both personally and professionally).
“We need to ask ourselves if someone is qualified to be a Maine voter just because they can say, 'I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night’” said Webster in the release, which didn’t mention St. Matthews, the hurricane, or the fact that the voters were students studying locally.
Webster also provided copies of the registration cards for the voters, but either didn’t do any further investigation, or chose not to share what he uncovered in his press release.
It’s not exactly hard to get the facts. All it took for me was a simple call to the hotel manager and then to St. Joseph’s media department and everything was explained. Even a quick Google search brings up plenty of information on the situation in 2004.
That’s why it’s disappointing to see articles like this AP piece, which repeats Webster’s allegations without giving any context, not even referencing his recent history of strange claims of voter fraud.
Steve Mistler and the Sun Journal, on the other hand, did things right. They had the whole story up and online while I was still looking up hurricane damage figures on Wikipedia.
Today's release comes despite the fact that Webster yesterday told the Press Herald that he would not be a visible part of the campaign going forward. One imagines that these false claims and implications of fraud aren't helping the Republican cause. I wonder how long before Webster's colleagues enforce that invisibility themselves.