The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maine this week announced an Election Day program to handle complaints of voter fraud, harassment or other potential polling place problems in Maine. It’s something the office does every presidential election year.

But this year is not like every other election year. Never before has a major party nominee for president publicly called the nation’s voting system “rigged.” Donald Trump’s comments questioning the validity of American elections, made on more than one occasion this month, have thrust the issues of voter fraud and voting rights into the spotlight. Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump supporter, has said he doesn’t think elections are “clean” because voters don’t have to show identification at the polls.

Still, Maine’s track record of smooth elections and the system in place for handling fraud complaints and questions have state officials and election observers feeling confident that any problems that do come up will not be major ones.

“I think the biggest concern is voter intimidation and harassment, so it’s important that everyone is on guard to shut that down,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

The office of the U.S. attorney for Maine, Thomas E. Delahanty II, put out a news release Tuesday detailing Maine’s version of the federal Department of Justice’s Election Day Program for handling election fraud claims and questions. The release included more than a half-dozen phone numbers people can call for help or information on Election Day.

In Maine, the program consists of officials with expertise in several election-related areas manning phones on Election Day to handle questions and potential problems. These include representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, and the ACLU of Maine. Special FBI agents will be available to investigate election fraud or election abuse claims, and federal and state court judges will be on call “to assist in the enforcement of voting rights,” according to the announcement of the program.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said he’s confident that elections will go off in Maine without major problems because “Maine has an extraordinary group of (town and city) clerks who work very hard and are very effective.” Bartlett said the Democratic Party also has lawyers who volunteer on Election Day to help people who have questions about voting rights or possible abuses or rules violations at polling places.

Jason Savage, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, did not return a phone call and an email seeking comment.

John G. Osborn, one of the assistant U.S. attorneys who will be handling phone calls in Maine, said people could call his office if they think they saw someone vote more than once, or if they saw someone at the polls harassing or intimidating voters. He said that people can call if they see anything or anyone making it difficult or impossible for other people to vote.

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, who will also be at the phones Election Day, said her office helps interpret Maine election law for voters and officials.

“People will call and ask if it’s illegal to use pencils with erasers (it’s not) or whether candidates can be at the polling place (they can),” said Flynn.

Maine is probably less susceptible to Election Day problems than some states because there are no voting systems in Maine connected to the internet. So no one could hack the results, Flynn said.

Flynn said Trump’s opinion that the nation’s election system is “rigged” might get some people thinking more about voter fraud, and keeping a sharper eye out at polling places. That’s fine with her.

“I’d rather have people be aware of what’s going on, and not take (voting) for granted,” Flynn said.

Heiden, of the ACLU of Maine, says that in some states people can walk into a polling place and challenge the eligibility of a voter. He said sometimes people will stand at a table and challenge every young voter or student they see.

But Heiden says Maine law prevents such harassing tactics, requiring people to make challenges in writing and to swear under oath that they have “personal knowledge” that the person they are challenging may not be eligible.

“Elections in Maine are run incredibly smoothly, and the problems are rare,” said Heiden. “I’m hopeful that will continue, but it’s good to be prepared just in case.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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