Sep. 17—LEWISTON — The City Council will vote Tuesday on a resolution reaffirming its support and faith in local elections, after former Gov. Paul LePage questioned election integrity in larger communities.
The resolution, brought forward by Councilor Linda Scott, states that “public support for — and trust in — free and fair elections are necessary to ensure popular support and legitimacy for those who make governmental decisions,” and that a “prominent political figure” had recently called into question election integrity “despite offering no evidence to support this charge.”
LePage, the Republican gubernatorial contender, reportedly made the comments during a recent GOP event in Mount Vernon, where he said he has “great confidence in small towns,” but that larger cities like Bangor, Rockland, Lewiston, Portland, and South Portland “are areas you got to be a little bit more careful.”
The Lewiston resolution states that the mayor and City Council “wholeheartedly support and have full faith and confidence in the Lewiston City Clerk, city clerk staff, and other election officials and volunteers to conduct Lewiston’s elections with honesty, integrity and impartiality.”
It’s not the first time LePage has called election matters into question. He supported Donald Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election and regularly insisted that college students in Maine who come from other states shouldn’t be allowed to vote here.
Lewiston, the second largest city in Maine and home to Bates College, has also been a previous target of election-related political moves. In 2016, anonymous flyers were distributed at Bates College that warned students they could face legal jeopardy if they register and vote without taking other steps to become Maine residents, such as changing to a Maine driver’s license and reregistering their vehicles in Maine.
Two years later, then-Mayor Shane Bouchard issued a letter to more than 200 people who had registered to vote during the previous year’s election and mayoral runoff. In it, he laid out the state’s requirements for when someone declares residency in Maine, including getting a Maine driver’s license and vehicle registration.
At the time, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap called the letter a “disservice to the public discourse,” and said that not updating a driver’s license or failing to register a vehicle doesn’t prevent one from voting.
“Most importantly, those requirements were not crafted with the intent to pose as barriers that must be overcome before a citizen can exercise the right to vote,” he said.
Mayor Carl Sheline on Friday said “any suggestion that Lewiston’s elections are anything but free, fair and accurate is wrong. However, it’s important for us as a council to stand behind city staff and the volunteers who make our city’s elections possible.”
City Clerk Kathy Montejo, who oversees local elections, has been a municipal clerk for 30 years and has won multiple awards.