Town clerks in Maine have raised concerns about the practices employed by No Labels in their effort to register voters in the state, and at least one voter — a selectman in Clifton — has said his signature was forged on registration documents.
On Friday, No Labels was officially recognized as a “qualified party” in Maine — opening the door for them to host a candidate on the state’s ballot.
Allegations that No Labels has deceived voters into switching their registration to the fledgling party, however, have resurfaced on an email listserv used by Maine’s municipal employees, according to copies of the emails obtained by the Maine Wire.
The stakes of the registration changes are high. Because of Maine’s primary election rules, thousands of voters may show up to the polls to vote in a Democratic or Republican primary only to discover that they’re ineligible to vote because of the change in their party registration that No Labels facilitated.
Under Maine’s new semi-open primary laws, voters affiliated with a party are only eligible to vote in that party’s primary. Unenrolled voters, however, may cast their ballots in the primary of their choice.
Once enrolled in a party, voters cannot change their registration for three months. In order to be eligible to vote in their party’s primary, voters must be enrolled at least 15 days prior to the primary election, scheduled for March 5, 2024.
Because No Labels is not participating in the state’s primary, anyone registered with the party 15 days out from the election will not be eligible to participate in any party’s primary.
Clifton Town Clerk Nicole MacFarline has alleged that No Labels has been deceiving Maine voters into thinking they were signing a petition to support the group when, in reality, they were enrolling in the party.
“It’s people that are being told they’re signing a petition,” MacFarline told the Maine Wire. “[No Labels is] not really making it clear that they are changing over into a party.”
William Rand, a member of Clifton’s Select Board, has even accused No Labels of “fraudulently” transposing his signature from a petition onto a voter registration card.
In an email forwarded by Rand to the Town of Clifton, he tells No Labels that “[his] signature on a petition to RECOGNIZE the No Labels party was transposed over to a voter registration card fraudulently.”
“My town clerk alerted me to this thankfully,” Rand concluded.
No Labels’ staffer Megan Shannon responded by saying they were “so sorry to hear that” and told Rand that “those were not the instructions given to our organizers and that is not in the spirit of No Labels.”
She asked Rand to provide any details he could recall about his experience so that they could “make any needed corrections.”
Shannon did not respond to an email asking about Rand’s allegation.
In speaking to the Maine Wire, MacFarline recounted Rand’s experience from her perspective.
“One of the people that were changed [was] one of my Select Board members, and I knew that he wouldn’t have done that,” MacFarline said. “He he came in weekly, so I just said: ‘Hey, did you mean to do this?’ He goes: ‘What?'” He said: ‘No, that’s not even my signature on my registration card.'”
The clerk went on to say that Rand recalled signing a “petition” for No Labels, but that after being informed that his registration had been changed, the Select Board member took steps to switch back his party affiliation.
“At the time, there was no hurry because it was last spring,” MacFarline said. “So he just waited the three months and switched back.”
MacFarline also told the Maine Wire that “no one has physically come in and change[d] to the No Labels group in front of [her].”
Jillian Richards, Kittery Town Clerk, similarly has raised concerns about the legitimacy of the voter registration cards submitted by No Labels.
“Are there any other Towns having an issue with missing information on the voter registration applications from No Labels Party that have been sent in?” Richards asked in an email obtained by the Maine Wire that was sent on the the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association (MTCCA) listserv last spring.
“Most of mine look like the same person has filled out all of them and most of them are missing the drivers license number / SSN,” Richards said.
Similarly, Monson Town Clerk Martha Gagnon has more recently reported receiving multiple messages from voters who had enrolled in the No Labels party informing her that they had no intention of switching their registration.
According to Monson, most of those affected have been elderly individuals who were told they were signing a “survey or petition,” not changing their party affiliation.
“It was bad enough when they were doing this last spring and summer,” Monson said Thursday in an email sent on the MTCCA listserv, “but the fact that they are still doing it now, so close to the Primary, is just mind blowing to me, as now these people won’t even be able to vote!”
This is not the first time that such accusations have been brought against No Labels.
Last year, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows called out the group concerning allegations of similar behavior.
In May of 2023, Secretary Bellows issued a statement responding to “numerous complaints” that voters were “surprised to find out” that their registration had been switched to No Labels.
“Voters expressed to election officials that they were told they were signing a petition in support of adding this new party and had not realized they were enrolling in a new party,” the statement said.
Bellows then sent a letter to the more than 6,000 individuals who had registered for the No Labels party, informing them that her office had “received reports that some Maine residents who completed paperwork to enroll in the No Labels Party were told that they were signing a petition in support of the No Labels Party.”
The Secretary also sent a cease-and-desist letter to No Labels, informing them of the accusations and directly ordering that they refrain from the alleged conduct.
“To the extent representatives of No Labels are telling Maine voters that, by filling out voter registration cards, they are signing or supporting a ‘petition,’ No Labels should instruct them to immediately cease and desist from doing so,” Bellows wrote. “In addition, when No Labels representatives are asking Maine voters to sign voter registration cards, they should be affirmatively disclosing to those voters that they are asking them to enroll in the No Labels party.”
At the time, No Labels adamantly refuted these claims, stating that their operations were completely aboveboard and that those who enrolled in the party were provided with voter registration cards issued by the State of Maine, which are clearly labeled as such.
“No Labels gave detailed written guidance to all our organizers and volunteers in Maine on following all the laws. The form they used was provided by the state and featured ‘MAINE VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION’ at the top in all-capital bold letters. To change their affiliation, a voter needed to individually check ‘Other Qualifying party’ and then personally write in the words ‘No Labels,’” Joe Lieberman and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. of No Labels wrote in a Portland Press Herald op-ed responding to Bellows’ accusations.
Despite Bellows’ criticism of No Labels’ voter registration tactics, the Maine Secretary of State’s Office has ordered McFarline to continue processing the suspect registration changes.
In an email to the listserv, the Clifton clerk had said she planned to call any locals who had party changes submitted on their behalf by No Labels to verify that they actually wanted to make the change.
“You should not be contacting voters about any [voter registration] apps you receive by mail (even if you know the voters),” Jennifer W. Day, CVR Manager at the Division of Elections, said in an email.
“Regardless of what voters are being told they are responsible for ensuring what they are signing,” said Day.
In order to be recognized as a “qualified party” in Maine — a prerequisite to appearing on the state’s ballot — a group must enroll at least 5,000 registered voters statewide.
According to a press release issued by No Labels on Friday, the party currently has 9,423 members enrolled statewide.
No Labels has not yet responded to a request for comment from the Maine Wire.