AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said again Tuesday that he would propose increasing the age to vote or join the military to 21 to be consistent with a new law hiking the legal age to buy tobacco.

Unfortunately for LePage, two things would stand in his way: the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. military.

Six days after the Legislature overrode his veto, LePage was still venting on the radio and in a letter to lawmakers about what he views as their hypocrisy in raising the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 as a way to reduce Maine’s high youth smoking rates. While health groups cheered the new law, LePage called lawmakers “hypocrites” and repeated his suggestion that perhaps 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are also too young to cast ballots or choose to fight for the country.

“This law subverts the United States Constitution and attempts to ‘social engineer’ legal behavior by adults who want to use a legal product that you don’t like,” LePage wrote to lawmakers on Tuesday. “If you don’t believe 18-year-olds are adults who can make their own decisions, then I hope you will support legislation that increases the voting age to 21 and prevents military service until a person turns 21.”

Earlier in the day, LePage told a Bangor radio station that he planned to introduce two bills during the 2018 session to do just that.

“If 18-year-olds are too young and can’t make the right decisions to buy cigarettes, then I don’t think they should be able to vote,” LePage told WVOM-FM. “And secondly, if they’re too young to buy cigarettes, then I think we ought to not send them to war until they are 21. So I am going to put up two bills and let them look at the hypocrisy and see how sensible that was.”


While LePage claims the tobacco bill, L.D. 1170, “subverts the United States Constitution,” attempting to raise the voting age in Maine or elsewhere would clearly violate the very document he cites.

The 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declares that “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied by the United States or any State on account of age.” The 26th Amendment was adopted in July 1971 after being ratified earlier that year by 38 states, including Maine.

As for military age requirements, each branch of the military sets minimum and maximum age limits. All five branches – the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard – allow individuals to join at age 17 with parental consent or on their own at age 18, although the Navy Reserves requires all enlistees to be at least 18 years old. Maximum ages for initial enlistees vary by branch, ranging from a low of 27 for active duty Coast Guard to 39 for the Air Force.

Neither of the WVOM radio hosts, Ric Tyler or George Hale, challenged LePage on his comment and the governor’s spokesman, Peter Steele, did not reply Tuesday afternoon to a question seeking clarification. While LePage is well-known for making outlandish or untrue statements – especially during his two weekly radio appearances – only to later explain them away as jokes, he did not mince words in his letter to lawmakers on Tuesday.

“Quite simply, you are hypocrites,” he wrote. “You agree to try them as adults in a court of law; you ask them to vote for you in our elections; you make them pay taxes; you say they can get married and divorced and make medical decisions for themselves; and you allow them to smoke ‘medical’ marijuana. But now you say they cannot decide for themselves whether they want to buy cigarettes.”

Some lawmakers didn’t bother holding back on their reactions, either.

Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the assistant minority leader, tweeted: “Oh boy! Another letter from Maine’s greatest pen pal! Seriously, he can piss off. T-21=single most important public health policy of 2017.” Libby quickly took down the tweet, but not before WGME captured a screen grab of the missive.

The Senate voted 29-5 – well above the required two-thirds majority – on Aug. 2 to override LePage’s veto of the bill making Maine the fifth state to opt to raise the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. The override passed by a single vote in the House on a roll call of 90-44. The law takes effect Nov. 1, although anyone who is 18 years old by July 1, 2018, can continue to buy tobacco products under a grandfathering clause inserted in the law.


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