As Maine’s election chief, Charlie Summers sent a letter to 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses last summer and mentioned “allegations of election law violations” against them. The letter strongly implied that the students did not meet Maine’s residency requirements before pushing them to cancel their voter registration and register elsewhere: “If, instead, you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine so that out our central voter registration system can be updated.”
Despite Summers’ intimidation campaign against out-of-state students registering to vote in Maine, the Supreme Court ruled three decades ago that students cannot be held to a different residency standard than other people within the state.
Still, his letter succeeded in frightening many of its recipients. A few told ThinkProgress they were “beyond scared and freaked out” because they thought the letter meant they were going to be sued.
As bad as the letter itself was, the reason why they were sent in the first place may be even worse. Summers received the list of students from Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who accused the students of committing voter fraud and called for making them pay taxes in order to vote. Webster has called for making voting more difficult because “Democrats intentionally steal elections.”
Though he is supposed to oversee elections in a fair and non-partisan manner as Secretary of State, Summers’ collusion with Webster to disenfranchise hundreds of students calls that into question.
This threatening letter wasn’t the first time Summers took steps that would prevent people from voting. Last year, he spearheaded a campaign to get rid of Election Day registration in Maine, which ultimately passed the state legislature and was signed by the Tea Party governor. However, Mainers rallied against the move, gathering signatures for a November referendum that ultimately rebuked the legislature and restored Election Day registration by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Now, Summers is one step closer to the Senate, where he would have a much larger platform to push for anti-voting measures. As he faces off against Democrat Cynthia Dill and Independent Angus King in the Maine Senate election, Summers currently has no plans to step down from his role as Maine’s elections chief.