AUGUSTA – Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers said Wednesday that his investigation into allegations of voter fraud revealed “vulnerabilities” in Maine’s voting system but only one case of illegal voting.

Among almost 500 names that he scrutinized, one non-U.S. citizen was proved to have registered and voted in Maine, in 2002, Summers said at a news conference.

Summers and Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster cited the results of Summers’ investigation as proof that Maine’s voting system needs improvement.

But David Farmer, spokesman for Protect Maine Votes, a group campaigning to preserve the state law allowing voters to register on the day of an election, said it proved just the opposite.

“Our elections are well-run and efficient,” he said. “If you look around the country at the types of problems we’ve had on Election Day, that does not happen here.”

Republicans have argued that same-day voter registration makes Maine elections vulnerable to fraud, while supporters of same-day registration say a repeal bill passed by the Legislature in June would disenfranchise many voters.

Webster referred the names of more than 200 college students to Summers for his investigation. Summers said Wednesday that none voted illegally. Five students voted in two states in the same year, but in different elections.

“Technically, it’s not a violation of the law,” said Summers. “I’m not sure exactly how patriotic it is — when people are moving from one state to the next state and one state to the next state, like that.”

Summers said 191 of the students who are now registered to vote in Maine have not obtained a Maine driver’s license. Any driver who declares Maine residency is required to get a Maine license within 30 days, by state law. While Summers acknowledged that he does not have proof that anyone is violating the law, he sent letters out to inform the students of the law.

“I have … asked them to take all appropriate actions to comply with Maine statute,” he said.

Seventy-seven of the students were registered to vote in both Maine and their home states, Summers found.

“Being dually registered is a violation of the law if the voter intentionally fails to disclose their previous address. It is impossible to determine if any of these students intentionally failed to disclose this information,” he said.

In addition to investigating potential fraud by students, Summers explored a claim by a Bureau of Motor Vehicles worker who said she was concerned that noncitizens were registering to vote.

Summers said his staff scrutinized Maine’s voter rolls for people who obtained Maine identification without Social Security numbers and those who had been investigated for ID theft, fraud or misuse.

The list that effort produced was shared with federal immigration officials, who sought to verify the individuals’ residency. That portion of the investigation turned up one person, determined to be a noncitizen, who registered and voted on Election Day in Portland in 2002.

According to federal records, Summers said, that person was reportedly “removed, deported or excluded” from the country in 2006.

After that, Maine’s previous secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, oversaw a change in the law that made it more difficult for illegal or undocumented immigrants to get Maine identification.

An allegation by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles worker that evidence was destroyed by higher-ups in the Secretary of State’s Office during Dunlap’s tenure is still being investigated by Attorney General William Schneider, Summers said.

Webster said he had expected about half of the students whose names he turned over to be in violation of the law — and believes the letters sent by Summers to the students proves he was right, even though no one was proven to have broken any law.

“What it proves is that without some kind of inspection period, people are going to vote who shouldn’t be voting,” Webster said.

But Farmer, whose group is trying to overturn the law passed in June to require voters to register at least two business days before an election, said Summers’ work proved that Webster’s allegations of voter fraud were “false, were outrageous and perhaps were defamatory.”

Farmer said the letters that Summers sent to students were intended to “scare college students into not voting, and I don’t think that’s right.”

Asked to respond to Summers’ statement that people who vote in different elections in different states are “unpatriotic,” Farmer said, “I think when you are exercising your right to vote, that’s one of the most patriotic things you can do.”

Summers said he will propose legislation to improve the integrity of Maine’s voting system for lawmakers to act on when they reconvene in January.

“It’s imperative on this Legislature to lean forward and try and do things to try and head off any potential problems,” he said.

One motor vehicles investigator and one employee from Summers’ office worked during normal working hours — without overtime — to do the investigation, said Caitlin Chamberlain, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We don’t, unfortunately, have a dollar amount, but it was conducted with existing resources — nothing extra,” Chamberlain said.

Summers is scheduled to give a lunchtime lecture on ensuring integrity in Maine elections, hosted by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, at noon today at DiMillo’s Restaurant in Portland.

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