Charlie Webster, the outgoing Maine Republican chairman, claimed Wednesday in an interview that "hundreds" of black voters cast ballots in rural Maine towns, contributing to the party's losses.
"In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day," he said in an interview with WSCH TV. "Everybody has the right to vote, but nobody in town knows anybody that's black -- how did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out."
Pressed on where it happened, he said it happened in "several rural Maine towns." He added that without a voter ID law or "way to check," voting was "fraught for abuse."
Webster stood by the claim in an interview with the Portland Press Herald. "I'm not talking about 15 or 20. I'm talking hundreds," he said. "I'm not politically correct and maybe I shouldn't have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that's sleazy."
Speaking with The Huffington Post in September 2011, he said, "Do we want people who live in a motel deciding who we send to the state legislature when they never vote again in Maine?" he asked. "Do we want people who are illegal aliens -- illegal Americans -- from Canada or another state? ... Do we want them influencing our elections?"
Elsewhere speaking to WSCH, Webster said he thought Democrats won elections by motivating low-income voters. He said he heard of "young men come to door in their summertime; tell them that the Republicans, particularly [Maine Gov. Paul] LePage, were going to take away their food stamps ... their welfare checks ... their disability ... and they brought them a ballot and they voted." He continued, "And there's nothing wrong with that. That's where their base of support is." He said later that people are moving to the state because of welfare.
That claim isn't unusual among Maine Republicans. Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) has told able-bodied, unemployed welfare recipients to "get off the couch" and get a job.
UPDATE: 6:57 p.m. -- Webster issued an apology on Thursday. "I apologize for my recent remarks about African-American voter turnout in rural Maine towns. It was my intention to talk not about race, but about perceived voting irregularities," he said in a statement.
"However, my comments were made without proof of wrongdoing and they had the unintended consequence of casting aspersions on an entire group of Americans. For that, I am truly sorry.
Webster also said he will not send out any mailers to confirm the addresses of recent registrants.