Republican out-of-state college student ran for State House last year
On July 28, 2011 At 12:00 pm
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On Monday, the chair of the Maine Republican Party, Charlie Webster, held a press conference to announce that he had found “evidence” that 206 out-of-state students attending college here had committed fraud. Despite a Supreme Court ruling that allows student to vote where they live during the school year, Webster does not think they should be allowed to do so. He said:
On a final note, the simple fact is that 206 people on out-of-state tuition here are actually voting to decide who will represent our communities in the State Legislature. This ought to concern Mainers. I don’t even care who they vote for. I can’t go to Massachusetts, visit my daughter, become a resident for a day and vote there.
This fraud is outrageous.
Every November the people of Maine gather and vote on serious matters in their communities. Not only state issues, but very important local issues.
“Should we build a new school building?”
“Should we increase local property taxes to increase the fire department?”
In the last election, a recount was held in Gorham, Maine, for a legislative House seat. The winning candidate one with 36 votes. In Gorham in the last elections, my research shows that 51 out-of-state students voted. These out-of-state students could have made the difference who represent those Mainers who live in Gorham. I ask you, who is disenfranchised in this matter? Individuals who are not residents should not vote on local matters.
Today we learn that an out-of-state student at Bates College ran for the State House in 2010. Brendan O’Brien was a senior when he registered as a candidate for House District 73 on 19 March 2010. HD73 is in Lewiston. He is the son of New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien. Speaker O’Brien caused a stir last year when he said that college students were “coming out of school…and voting as a liberal, that these students “vote their feelings” which has “taken away a town’s ability to govern themselves.”
Brendan O’Brien ran unopposed in the Republican primary election held 8 June 2010, receiving 248 votes. According to his finance reports, O’Brien raised no money for his campaign. Brendan O’Brien is also the chair of the Maine College Republicans. O’Brien then withdrew as a candidate for office. Because he did so before the 12 July 2010 cutoff, the [Republican Party was able to name a replacement candidate http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/125cand/gen_wdraw.htm], in this case, Douglas Stone. Stone went on to lose to Democrat Rep. Dick Wagner in the general election last November.
What sometimes occurs in legislative races is that a Party cannot find a candidate to place on their primary ballot, and so a “placeholder candidate” is found. This is important, because in order to have a name on the ballot in November, a Party must run a primary contender. The placeholder candidate then withdraws from the race after the primary, allowing the Party to name whomever they wish (providing they qualify).
This appears to be what happened last spring: the Maine GOP, not finding anyone willing to run for HD73, settled on a placeholder in Brendan O’Brien.
The Maine Constitution requires residency in the state in order to be eligible to be a member of the Legislature:
Section 4. Qualifications; residency requirement. No person shall be a member of the House of Representatives, unless the person shall, at the commencement of the period for which the person is elected, have been 5 years a citizen of the United States, have arrived at the age of 21 years, have been a resident in this State one year; and for the 3 months next preceding the time of this person’s election shall have been, and, during the period for which elected, shall continue to be a resident in the district which that person represents.
No person may be a candidate for election as a member of the House of Representatives unless, at the time of the nomination for placement on a primary, general or special election ballot, that person is a resident in the district which the candidate seeks to represent.
The key phrase regarding qualification is, “at the commencement of the period for which the person is elected.” The only reference I can find as to what defines a resident is in 29-A MRSA §1301.11, and it includes such things as a tax return or paycheck stub, a utility bill, a legal contract, or the like. In April 2008, former Sec. of State Matt Dunlap created this handy reference guide for what is required to prove residency in order to obtain a Maine drivers license or State ID.
In much the same way that out-of-state college students have a right to vote in the town where they live while in school, Brendan O’Brien has a right to run for pubic office here, should he have established residency as specified by the Maine Constitution.
In light of Maine GOP Chair Webster’s call to deny out-of-state college students their right to vote, I called him for a comment on Brendan O’Brien’s campaign. Webster told me that he had never heard of O’Brien, and had no idea what I was asking about.
That seemed a little odd to me, since Brendan O’Brien is on the Maine Republican Party State Committee, which Webster chairs.