AUGUSTA – Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Friday that he is “concerned” about 19 voters who used a hotel address in South Portland to register on Election Day in 2004.

Webster has been an outspoken supporter of a law passed in June to eliminate same-day voter registration in Maine. The law will be on the ballot Nov. 8 in a people’s veto referendum.

The 19 voters cited by Webster apparently were medical students from a school on Grand Cayman Island that was evacuated because of a hurricane, said Charmaine Daniels, a spokeswoman for Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

Saint Joseph’s had a partnership with St. Matthew’s University Medical School of Grand Cayman and likely helped some of its students relocate, said Daniels.

“Their facility in Grand Cayman was wiped out by a hurricane, and so what they had to do was reorganize quickly … so they brought students from Grand Cayman,” she said Friday.

The students stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in South Portland and apparently decided to register and vote in Maine in the 2004 presidential election.

Saint Joseph’s no longer has the same relationship with St. Matthews, Daniels said.

Webster, who issued a press release Friday morning, did not allege any fraud or illegal activity. But he said Mainers “should be very concerned that 19 individuals, who all listed the same hotel address, were able to register to vote and cast a ballot on a busy Election Day.”

Supporters of the law prohibiting voter registration within two business days of an election argue that municipal clerks need time to scrutinize new registrants for potential fraud.

In the case raised by Webster, it likely wouldn’t have mattered, because all of the registrants apparently met the legal standards for voting in Maine. They were U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old, and claimed Maine as their residence.

But Webster, who has criticized students from out of state who attend Maine colleges and vote in Maine, said the 19 voters “scammed” the system.

“They scammed our system because they never really intended to be a resident so they never should have been able to vote,” he said. “The question is, did they vote appropriately when they obviously had no intent to stay? I think that in the arena of public opinion, people are going to be upset.”

David Farmer, spokesman for Protect Maine Votes, the coalition that is campaigning to overturn the new voter registration law, said Webster is trying to “confuse the issue of same-day voter registration with a whole bunch of other issues and play on people’s fears and insecurities about folks from away.

“It’s not up to Charlie Webster to determine who a real Mainer is and who should be eligible to vote. The law and the Constitution can do a pretty good job of that,” Farmer said.

Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, called on other Maine Republicans to denounce Webster’s statements.

“He’s ruined his integrity, he’s ruining the Republicans’ integrity and he’s damaging our entire political system though his fear-mongering and lies,” Grant said in a prepared statement.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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