Letter to Maine Sec. of State: Please Confirm Commitment to Fair Voting Rights for Students

August 16, 2011

New York – The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law wrote Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers, Jr., today, asking Sec. Summers to publicly reaffirm that:

  • Students’ eligibility to vote in Maine is separate and distinct from their eligibility for in-state tuition rates at public universities.
  • Out-of-state tuition status is not a bar to registering or voting in Maine.

The high levels of publicity garnered by the Secretary of State’s ongoing investigation of voter fraud have largely focused on the fact that a number of students classified as “out-of-state” for tuition rates nonetheless voted as Maine residents. Under Maine and federal law, the standards for tuition status and voting residency are quite different. Without a clear, public clarification of the rules, students’ legal right to register and vote as residents of Maine may be unfairly chilled by the specter of wrongful investigation and prosecution.

The standards for establishing residency for purposes of tuition at Maine’s public universities are separate from those for voter residency, and far more restrictive. Under Maine and federal law, students who meet the legal requirements for residency and choose to register may vote as Maine residents, regardless of their public university tuition status. The letter goes on to observe that in fact, if the requirements for in-state tuition were applied to voter residency in Maine, they would be “plainly unconstitutional.”

Download the letter as a PDF, or view it on the Brennan Center’s web site. For more information, please contact Andrew Goldston at 646.292.8372, or Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 646.292.8322.

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