In a span of fewer than 10 days, Governor Paul LePage has made clear the toxic inconsistency in his attitude toward the position that young people — whether from Maine originally or moving here from away — ought to hold in the present and future of our state.

His message is clear: Young people and college students should be welcome at the workplace but every effort should be made to keep them out of the polling place.

First, on Dec. 28, LePage published a statement in which he, to his credit, renewed a call on the Legislature to pass legislation addressing the growing worker shortage and student debt crisis in the state. It’s a call that echoes one that he made last summer along with Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nate Libby (D-Lewiston), who was pushing for legislation that would have created a fund of between $40 million and $250 million to help recent graduates who continue to live and work in Maine pay off outstanding student debt.

LePage pointed out, accurately, that “for our state to continue to grow, it must become easier for graduates to stay in Maine, and we must attract talented young people here,” and that “high student loan payments prevent our young people from buying a house or a car or spending their money at local businesses.”

By January 5, however, young people and college students had transformed in the Governor’s rhetoric from the debt-weary saviors of Maine’s economy to a potential blight on the integrity of our politics.

In a weekly radio address in which he announced his intention to introduce legislation that would mandate voter ID requirements in Maine, LePage spent nearly half of his remarks on an aside about the potential dangers of college students committing voter fraud by casting ballots at their campus polling places and by absentee in the states that they came from — essentially voting twice. Nevermind that this idea, a subject of Maine conservative paranoia for years, has never been shown to have actually occurred in the state, or that even if such a problem ever did exist, a voter ID law would do exactly nothing to solve it.

It’s the most recent in a long and well-documented string of comments and actions made by the administration to cast suspicion on student voters and to use the specter of their participation in local politics as a Trojan horse for repressive legislation like the repeal of same-day voter registration or the implementation of restrictive voter ID laws.

This thinly-veiled fear of the growing political power of young people–the most diverse and politically progressive generation of voters in modern history — coupled with the inescapable reality that the state’s economy will implode without retaining and recruiting young workers seems to have created a paradox for our governor. His solution to that paradox appears to be to try to have things both ways: induce young people to reside in the state and fill our workplaces while simultaneously placing as many barriers between us and the polling place as possible. He wants us to shoulder the burdens of a struggling economy while acting as willing boogeymen in a disingenuous political scheme to shut our voices out of the political system.

Obviously, that is not a viable solution. LePage and his ilk will have to come to accept that welcoming young workers to the state is incompatible with trying to shun and disenfranchise young citizens from the political process. There is no middle ground that will lead to a sustainable future for our state.

The preceding originally appeared on, a website and podcast created by progressive group the Maine People’s Alliance.

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