AUGUSTA – Secretary of State Charlie Summers announced he his pursuing a two-pronged investigation into potential voter fraud, stemming from allegations made by an employee within his department and leaders of the Maine Republican Party.

Summers told reporters during a press conference today that an employee at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles approached him on July 1 with allegations that evidence of non-citizens registering to vote had been ordered to be destroyed by senior management within the Secretary of State’s Office. The alleged actions occurred under “previous administrations,” according to Summers, but he would not specify when. He said the allegations extended back at least five years.

“(She) reported to me her experiences of accepting voter registration forms from customers she believed to be non-citizens,” Summers said. “When she voiced her concerns under previous administrations and provided documentation in support of her conclusions, senior level management … instructed her to disregard such activity and destroy the documents she had compiled related to this subject.”

Former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat contemplating running for the U.S. Senate, denied any impropriety while he held the office from 2005 to 2010.

“I had no dealings whatsoever with any allegations that someone tried to improperly register to vote who was not a qualified citizen,” he said in an interview. “Until they actually put some names and dates on this, it’s just a political firestorm is all it is.”

Dunlap also said Summers was “treading on very dangerous ground” by appearing to politicize his position as secretary of state.

“Everybody knew I had a ‘D’ on my sleeve and everybody knows he has an ‘R’ on his. It’s how you act, it’s how you behave,” he said. “The fact that I knew the Republicans were watching me like a hungry hawk hovering over a fat mouse added to, I believe, the integrity of my work.”

State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, is a former secretary of state who launched the so-called motor-voter initiative in the 1990’s. He said allegations of document destroying are extremely serious and should be rigorously investigated.

“I hope they are going to be more specific, because otherwise they are incriminating a lot of people,” Diamond said in an interview following the press conference.

Summers said he is also following up on claims of voter fraud made by Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party. Webster claimed at least 206 out-of-states students had potentially illegally voted in Maine in the 2010 election.

Webster’s research was prompted in response to a recently launched petition effort to force a statewide repeal vote on a law eliminating Election Day voter registration in Maine.

Summers, who initiated the law some groups are trying to repeal, said eliminating same-day registration has nothing to do with preventing fraud, but rather it would provide administrative relief to clerks. He said he is rolling the two investigations together and is working with both the state Attorney General’s Office and federal law enforcement.

Summers is the former vice-chair of the Maine GOP.

This story has been updated from its original posting.