AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After a 2-month investigation, Secretary of State Charlie Summers says he found no cases of voter fraud that can be prosecuted, but Summers says, that his investigation also showed that the state's election system is very vulnerable.
Summers looked into claims made by Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster that more than 200 students may have voted illegally and at some claims that non-citizens were being permitted to vote.
Summers found that none of the students violated election law, but 77 of them were registered in both Maine and their home state state. That would be a violation if Summers could prove that the students intentionally hid their former address. Summers says that is pretty tough to prove, and given his small staff, he doesn't plan to persue it.
5 students voted both in Maine and in another state in the same year, but not in the same election. Summers said, "Technically, it's not a violation of the law. I'm not sure how patriotic it is when people move from one state to the next state from one state to the next state. We'll have to look further."
Summers also found 6 non-citizens were registered to vote, and one actually did vote in 2002, but all of those people have since left the country, and thus cannot be prosecuted.
Finally, Summers says, 84 percent of the cases of potential voter fraud were due to clerical error. And 79 percent of those mistakes were made on Election Day.
"When my elections staff has no increased, when town budgets have decreased, when you see the number of mistakes, clerical errors that are happening on election day, I think it argues fairly clearly that this system is in need of an overhaul," Summers said.
Summers hopes to bring legislation to the legislature this session that would require town clerks to keep voter registration information for longer than 2 years, as is required now. He says it was difficult to investigate fraud because so many records were destroyed. He also wants to create just one definition of Maine residency to clear up any confusion.
This whole investigation is going on during a statewide debate over same day voter registration.
The legislature voted to eliminate it, at Summers urging. He says the clerical errors he found are just more evidence that this is a good law.
But those leading a people's veto effort to restore same day voter registration this November say Summers' news conference proved no fraud, and was entirely politically motivated.
David Farmer, spokesperson for the people's veto group Protect Maine Votes said, "What he demonstrated were a lot of ifs and buts and what ifs and maybes. I didn't see anything that demonstrated that anybody broke the law."
Charlie Webster, who brought the students' names to Summers to investigate, says he'd like to see some follow up with those students. He wants to know how many of them followed up their declaration of Maine citizenship as voters by changing to a Maine driver's license, something you are required to do within 30 days of becoming a Maine citizen. Summers did send letters to some of the students, reminding them of that requirement, but said he had no plans to follow up. Farmer objected to Summers even sending that letter, saying that it was like telling anyone whose car registration was due that if they didn't re-up, they'd lose their right to vote.