Thursday January 30, 2014 | 03:49 PM

(I should have noted this before that audio clips are courtesy of MPBN, which recorded the entire floor debate; also I've expanded Lance Harvell's comments to better reflect what he meant to say during his floor speech. -- S.M.)

State Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, on Thursday accused the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives of equating granting women the right to vote with extending the same privilege to murderers and convicted felons. 

The exchange took place during the floor debate over a bill that would extend early voting in Maine. During the debate, Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said that the founding fathers set a single day for voting and that people managed to make it to the polls, whether by horseback or other means. Russell then rose to say that times had changed and that the founding fathers also didn't think women should vote. 

Her remarks:

Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, rose to respond. He said:


Russell wasn't pleased with the response. In an email statement, she claimed that Fredette had essentially compared women voters to murderers and felons. In an emailed statement she wrote, "Comparing women to murderers as it relates to the right to vote is a new one. Rep. Fredette may have to "mansplain" that one to me."

Russell's "mansplain" reference was to remarks that Fredette made during a debate over Medicaid expansion last year. During that debate Fredette -- who coincidentally was responding to Russell's floor speech -- attempted to disassemble the Democratic argument that Medicaid expansion is free by drawing an analogy from the book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

Fredette was attempting to say that the two parties approached the Medicaid issue differently, but Democrats quickly took his analogy to its logical conclusion: Democrats are women who don’t understand that things aren’t free.

Fredette's remarks became known as the "man's brain" speech.

David Sorensen, a spokesman for Fredette, responded:

In advocating for early voting, Rep. Russell’s point was that voting laws have changed over time; she used women’s suffrage as an example (At about 00:20 into her speech: “I guess my point is that the laws have changed since then.”).  

 Rep. Fredette’s point was that sometimes those changes are for the better, as in women’s suffrage, and sometimes they are for the worse, as in Maine being one of only two states to allow prisoners to vote, and as in the matter at hand, steering the state increasingly toward early voting.

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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