Just days after President Trump disbanded a presidential commission on voter fraud, Republican Gov. Paul LePage again urged the Maine Legislature to pass new voter identification laws.

“It is not a hardship to require an ID for voting,” LePage said in his weekly radio address, which was released Friday. “An ID is already required for buying alcohol, for driving a car, for cashing a check, for boarding a plane, for starting a job, for checking into a hotel and for many everyday activities.”

In 2017, Republican lawmakers in Maine made the most recent of several attempts to pass a law requiring a photo identification at the polling place. They were outnumbered by opponents, who said the requirement could disenfranchise many eligible voters who may not have a photo identification.

In his radio address LePage singled out college voters, whom he targeted in 2016 as well when he said allowing students to vote locally could lead to double voting if they also cast absentee ballot in their home states.

“If out-of-state students want to vote in their college town, they should meet the residency requirements, just as anyone else who chooses to live and work and vote in Maine must do,” LePage said.

The governor said in 2016 that students who want to vote should register their cars in Maine and pay taxes here if they expect to vote here. About the same time, anonymous fliers appeared on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston that falsely warned students they needed to update their driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registrations if they were voting in Maine.

LePage’s stance on voter ID has repeatedly put him at odds with Maine’s top election official, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat who maintains that Maine’s voting systems are secure and fraud-free.

In 2016, Dunlap refutedrebutted LePage’s assertions about college voters, saying Bates College students had a “fundamental” right to vote and updating driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations first was not a requirement in Maine.

Dunlap, who served on the now-defunct presidential commission, successfully sued the Trump administration for access to information about the commission’s formation and its work that he had been denied.

Soon afterward, Trump disbanded the commission, blaming states for refusing to release private voter information that the president believed would prove widespread voter fraud took place in the 2016 presidential election. Trump finished behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

LePage also raised the specter of voter fraud in Maine in the wake of the 2016 election, when he summoned newly elected lawmakers to Augusta to be sworn into office.

“I am issuing this summons and signing this election certificate despite the fact that I maintain strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine’s ballot and the accuracy of Maine’s election results and I cannot attest to the accuracy of the tabulation certified by the secretary of state,” LePage wrote.

His radio address was released just a day after Trump tweeted: “As Americans, you need identification, sometimes in a very strong and accurate form, for almost everything you do … except when it comes to the most important thing, VOTING for the people that run your country. Push hard for Voter Identification!”

The timing prompted Dunlap to take a jab at LePage in an interview Friday.

“The governor has tried to portray himself as being independent-minded, so it seems a little bit off and out of character for him to jump on board – the president says we need voter ID, so the governor says we need voter ID,” Dunlap said.

He noted that even when Republicans held the majority in both houses of the Legislature during LePage’s first two years in office, they were unable to pass a voter identification law because many party members did not support it. Last year, Dunlap’s office estimated that implementing voter ID would cost the state more than $500,000.

“The Legislature has never embraced it,” Dunlap said. He said now that it was even more difficult to obtain a valid photo identification under federal Real ID laws, it was unlikely any bill trying to bring voter identification forward in Maine would gain any traction in 2018.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: thisdog

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