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Town voter registration letters raise questions

By Christine Simmonds | Mar 31, 2021
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Thomaston Municipal Building

Thomaston — Thomaston Town Clerk Melissa Stevens has stopped mailing voter registration letters to residents following a call from the Secretary of State’s office.

“It was just an attempt to update voter information,” Stevens said. She added she was not trying to disenfranchise anyone.

At least one resident who received the letter reached out to the the secretary of state.

Stevens sent out letters to residents with last names from A to C who had voter registration cards that were not updated in several years.

“Please call 354-6107 to schedule an appointment with me to update your Voter Registration Card,” the letter said. The appointment was necessary because the Thomaston town office is currently open by appointment only due to COVID-19.

Stevens said these updates were not mandatory, though the letter does not state that.

The letter says, “you will need to bring proof of ID and proof of physical residence.”

The Maine Voter Guide describes the documents required to register to vote as “Government document or credential with photo ID (i.e. driver’s license, State ID, valid U.S. Passport, military ID); Government ID document/credential without photo (i.e. certified birth certificate or signed Social Security card); An official document that shows name and address of voter (i.e. eligibility for public benefits, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck); Verified unique identifier (Maine driver’s license number or last four numbers of Social Security Number).”

These documents are required to register to vote in Maine or in a new municipality for the first time. Maine law does not require any of these documents to vote at the polls.

There are some situations where one may be asked to provide an ID when they vote. It is good practice for a municipality to reach out to those voters before the election.

Kristen Muszynski, the director of communications with the Department of the Secretary of State, confirmed the office did speak with Stevens about the letters.

“We have confirmed that there was no malicious intent,” Muszynski said. “It was just a matter of this new clerk trying to be conscientious in making sure that the town’s voter list is accurate and complete.”

Muszynski also said Stevens did not violate any state law or cancel any voter registration.

“We have advised her instead to approach such efforts in a manner that makes it clear to voters that they will not be removed from the voter list for failure to respond,” Muszynski said.

Town Manager Kara George said she was aware of the letters and supported Stevens’ efforts to keep voter registration information updated.

“We’re always updating the lists,” George said. Residents often forget to update their voter registration with information such as a new address.

George also said Stevens was within her job to reach out to voters for updated information.

Both George and Stevens said they heard positive feedback from residents about the letters. Stevens said she wished that anyone feeling unhappy about them had reached out to the office with questions.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Sam Charlton | Apr 02, 2021 14:21

Had the Town of Thomaston gone about this in the correct manner this would not be a problem. But for a voter who had no change in address, has voted in EVERY election, never was questioned about my right to vote in town, has never had a town piece of mail returned due to bad address;  this would be an un-necessary loss of time from my job. I work 1 hour away. The town office is open, you guessed it, only during business hours. This is not an issue of voter fraud, but an issue of the town going beyond what the Sec of State allows for maintenance of the voter list.


Posted by: Jonathan J Beitler | Apr 01, 2021 18:22

The real problem here is the arrogance of the Town Officials. Imagine dictating to working people that you have to interrupt your work-day to make an appointment. It might start with a voice mail, because so few in government answer the phone themselves, the process of making an appointment might take a couple of attempts and then you have killed an hour that you were supposed to be working. Then you are supposed to gather up your proof of ID and residency, and since there are unlikely to be evening or weekend hours(wouldn't want to inconvenience the Town Officials), come to the Town Municipal Building to meet with someone,  WASTING MORE TIME to do something that is not required. Employers from Thomaston and especially employers outside of Thomaston would hardly be pleased. And guess what? The Town Official makes up the standard as to whether or not you have adequately justified that you should be allowed to vote. In addition to making up requirements, not being honest and disclosing that this was not mandatory and there would be no penalty for filing the Town letter in the round file, the Town Officials(because I doubt that one person did this without running it through the Town bureaucracy)  did not consider  the inconvenience to the people they are supposed to be serving and the loss of productivity for their employers.  Ronald Reagan said government was the problem. Here is an example.

Posted by: Scott Simmonds | Apr 01, 2021 10:43

Stephen, There is zero evidence of any significant voter fraud anywhere. The only distrust has been spread by the petulant former president. The earth is round. We landed on the moon. Vaccines are good. There's no pizza shop basement child sex ring. Masks work. Trump lost. The earth is 4.5 billion years old. Climate change is real.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Apr 01, 2021 10:09

It would be a reason people with no conscience or sense of fairness run and get elected.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 01, 2021 07:48

Kudos to Thomaston's town clerk for trying to do the right thing to update her voter files.  Unfortunately whenever you make a move there is always someone you piss-off.  Probably one reason so many are hesitant to run for public office.  No matter what you do certainly you are wrong in someone's eyes half the time.  We are quickly losing confidence in our election system, yet our representatives have done little to correct this situation.  The Biden administration has come up with a new plan to enhance voter registration.  Encourage millions to openly enter our country give them anything they want and then say "now don't forget who let you in to the party".

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