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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2:13 p.m.
Editorials | Opinion

Editorial: Webster’s web of lies has no home in voter legislation

You’re a good man, Charlie Webster — good at manipulating the truth and vilifying the innocent, that is.

Apparently, rights for student voters are as expendable as peanuts to Webster, the Maine Republican Party chairman who has seemingly made it his personal crusade to dissuade college students from voting in their college towns.

But Webster’s war against supposed voter fraud has little other direction left to go except down.

As the doltish ditty goes, in July, Webster submitted a list of more than 200 students registered to vote in the state of Maine, contending that those named on his invalid inventory could not claim residency on their college campus due to out-of-state status.

Therefore, when the students, performing their civic duty, cast their votes in Maine on their college campuses, they were automatically participants in the further corruption of the polls.

The law, according to Webster, is meant to prevent this.

“I get tired of talking about this because the law is clear,” Webster was quoted as saying in the Bangor Daily News last week. “If I want to vote, I need to establish residency. I need to register my car and pay taxes in that community. You can’t just become a student and vote wherever you want.”

The argument makes sense, if you happen to be a crotchety, middle-aged, extremist with no effective way to win party favor except through stripping perfectly decent citizens of their ability to have a say.

But, even if one doesn’t match that description, Webster’s contention would still hold some merit if the law actually stipulated his claims. Alas, this is not the case.

The law, as it is written, requires of a voter three distinctions: that they be a legal U.S. citizen, are at least 18 years of age and can prove residency in the state. There is nothing mentioned about property taxes or car registrations.

Establishing residency for college students, thanks to a 1979 Supreme Court ruling, is as easy as listing one’s residence hall or dormitory.

And who’s to say that students don’t pay taxes in their collegiate area? Often, they rent property. They support local businesses. Students (this is evident in Orono) fuel economic development in towns comparatively desolate in the summer.

Truth be told, this whole fiasco is nothing more than a cheap attempt to undermine the liberal opposition by squelching voter privileges based on the stereotypical assumption that students have a leftist agenda. There remains no evidence supporting Webster’s cry of fraudulence, and no law explicitly stating a college campus is not to be considered a legal home. If Webster’s motive doesn’t lie in pure bipartisan diatribe, then where does it?

Is this what it takes to be a representative of the people — if you can’t beat ‘em, draw up a list, belittle their integrity and lastly, attempt to abolish their rights as American citizens? McCarthyism was supposed to be a thing of the past, not a viable criterion for achieving a balanced society.

Fact always trumps fiction in the political realm. Charlie Webster could stand to learn a lesson from his namesake in that regard, before he chucks the rest of his reputation to the wind.