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Dunlap criticizes Lewiston mayor for intimidating letter to new voters

Russ Dillingham | AP
Russ Dillingham | AP
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, center right, speaks at the Muskie Archives on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018.
The Associated Press

LEWISTON, Maine — Maine’s secretary of state is taking exception to a letter the mayor of Lewiston sent to new voters who registered at the polls during last year’s election.

Republican Mayor Shane Bouchard wrote last month that registering to vote amounts to a declaration of Maine residency and that it carries additional legal obligations, such as getting a Maine driver’s license and registering cars in the state.

The letter was sent to 221 people, including Bates College students, the Sun Journal reported.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap told the newspaper it is wrong to imply that failure to comply with motor vehicle statutes after voting is a crime.

College students voting in local elections is a perennial issue. All told, 481 voters in the municipal election were under 25 and used a Bates address.

Dunlap said letters like Bouchard’s often are directed at college students. Last year, an email spread among University of Maine students that said if they registered to vote and voted in Orono, then they could lose their out-of-state financial aid.

“That scares the hell out of a kid,” he said.

Bouchard said his letter, which begins by thanking the new voters, was not an attempt to dissuade students from voting. He said he wanted new voters to have “the actual facts” after registering instead of seeing incorrect information on social media.

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