LEWISTON — After playing a big role in the demise of a national voter-fraud commission that he feared could limit access to the polls, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap was hailed by some as a hero.

But he is not buying it.

“I’m no Rosa Parks,” Dunlap told a crowd Wednesday at the Muskie Archives at Bates College.

All Dunlap did, he said, was ask for a meeting schedule and some information any member of the commission ought to possess. After a court agreed he should get the data, President Trump pulled the plug on the commission.

Dunlap called his seven-month membership on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity a “strange journey” that is not quite over because he is still suing the panel to get his hands on information the White House did not want him to have.

Dunlap, who oversees Maine’s elections, said he does not believe voter fraud exists in any significant way. Neither does he buy the notion that Russian meddling might have swayed the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.

But that does not mean he has an easy job.

By Monday, for example, he has to decide whether a people’s veto petition managed to secure enough valid signatures to require the use of ranked-choice voting in the June 12 primary, which would be a first-in-the-nation system for races involving federal office or governor, both on the ballot.

If ranked-choice voting is used, as voters approved in a 2016 referendum, it will make figuring out election winners more cumbersome and time-consuming.

Dunlap said if that happens, he plans to lay out a projected timetable for the count beforehand so voters will not get antsy and fear the results might be rigged.

Meantime, he said, he will try to get enough funding from the Legislature to do the job right. But if lawmakers do not come through with the money – “the Apollo 13 scenario,” as he put it – then his office will keeping plugging anyway and get the job done.

Led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the commission focused attention on what Trump-friendly members saw as voter fraud.

At a public session in September in New Hampshire, Dunlap clashed with Kobach after Republican members tried to portray college students voting as a form of voter fraud if they didn’t also change their driver’s licenses over to the state where they lived while they took classes.

Dunlap said that’s not voter fraud, but the right students have as American citizens.

“The idea that there’s widespread voter fraud is really more of a myth,” he said.

After the September session, Dunlap could not get any information about meeting schedules or anything else from the commission – not even information about the arrest of a key staff member on child pornography charges in Maryland.

Told by a Capitol Hill source to sue before Trump kicked him off the commission, Dunlap quickly filed suit to preserve his standing to bring action in case the president dumped him.

Shortly before Christmas, he won the case. Right after New Year’s, Trump killed the commission.

But Dunlap still wants the records.

“I want to know what the plans were. What were they thinking about doing?” he asked.

He said he remains happy that so many Americans “rushed to barricades with pitchforks” last June when the commission sought voter data from every state. Many, including Maine, refused to comply.

But the incident bolstered Dunlap with its show that people “really, really care about their democratic form of government.”

Dunlap said he understands the fear that Trump’s commission may have wanted to “construct a one-party system in this country,” and worries even now that a new regulation from Washington could require voters to show a verified identification card to cast a ballot.

It is crucial, he said, to protect the integrity of elections.

Dunlap also reminded voters who are not happy with the outcome of the balloting in recent times not to give up.

“If election doesn’t go your way,” he said, “there’s always another election.”

[email protected]

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.