November 16, 2012

Maine ACLU warning feds about Webster comments

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

The ACLU of Maine said it plans to alert the U.S. Justice Department about some of the controversial statements by Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, the group said Friday.

But the specific issue they are raising may be a moot point.

Webster created a political backlash – including from Republicans – when he said unknown black people showed up to vote in some rural areas and he suspected they might not be legal residents. Webster has maintained that Maine's election laws are vulnerable to voter fraud, once triggering a state investigation of college students to find out if they were legal residents. The investigation did not find any fraud.

Webster initially said he planned to mail postcards to newly registered voters in some rural towns to see how many are returned, an indication that voters may not live at the addresses on their registration cards. He stuck to that plan during some interviews Thursday, saying he would personally pay for the mailings.

However, Webster issued an apology later Thursday and said he was dropping his plan to send the postcards.

The ACLU of Maine said in a news release Friday it is still concerned about Webster's plan, citing mixed messages in statements Thursday. The group said it would amount to "voter caging," an illegal practice that intimidates and harasses new voters.

“Voter intimidation, by a political party or a private individual, is illegal,”  said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. “Using postcards or the mail in an attempt to trap or eliminate voters is harassment and a violation of federal law.”


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