Maine Gov. Paul LePage is being accused of intimidating college students by saying students who vote in Tuesday’s election will be investigated to make sure they follow state law.
The Republican governor’s comment comes after officials at a private liberal arts college in Lewiston said fliers distributed on campus with incorrect information about residency and fees are a "deliberate attempt at voter suppression."
The orange fliers were found at numerous dorms at Bates College as well. It’s unclear who was responsible for the fliers.
The leaflets say to register to vote in the city, students must pay to change their driver's licenses to a Lewiston address "within 30 days." They also say students must pay "hundreds of dollars" to re-register vehicles and do not give a timeframe.
Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said the information is false and said enrolled students living in the community can vote. State law doesn't require a Maine driver's license to vote, and establishing residency for voting doesn't mean you have to pay any fees or taxes.
"You don't pay for a right," Dunlap said. Any individual who declares Maine residency must follow rules like vehicle registration, but that process is completely separate from voter registration.
Dunlap said LePage's comments "inflame an atmosphere of doubt and fear among the voters."
Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills reinforced Dunlap’s comments, saying there are no financial penalties for exercising the right to vote. College President Clayton Spencer called the fliers disturbing and said the school is working to ensure students have clear information about how to register and vote.
LePage said that after the election, "we will do everything" allowed under state and federal law to verify college students who voted are following Maine law. LePage's office didn't respond to a request for comment and provided no further details about what that means.
Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine, called on the Department of Justice to investigate the intent behind LePage's statement. Heiden said LePage's words appear "designed to make college students afraid to vote.
“College students who live in Maine have the right to vote in Maine, and they are not subject to different laws than anyone else. Many of these young people are voting for the first time in a presidential election. The governor should be encouraging that civic participation, not doing everything in his power to undermine it.”
LePage also claimed Maine Democrats have encouraged out-of-state college students to vote "even though there is no way to determine whether students also voted in their home states."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.