For the last forty years, Maine has allowed people to register to vote on Election Day and cast a ballot if they have proof of residency and some form of identification. A bill making its way through the Maine Legislature this session, L.D. 1376, would prohibit same-day voter registration and eliminate voting rights we have had since 1972.
It is hard enough to get people to vote now. Why would anyone propose making voting more difficult? Some have said that processing new registrations on Election Day is too much of a burden for city and town clerks and that allowing people to register and vote the same day opens up the potential for fraud.
I serve on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. When we held the public hearing on L.D. 1376 we did not hear from clerks that there are any problems with the current voter registration law. In fact, with so many people voting by absentee ballot now compared to five or ten years ago, there are far fewer people voting at the polling place. This means poll workers have more time now to process new registrations than they did in the past.
In terms of fraud, we only heard evidence of four cases since same-day voter registration was passed in 1972. Only two of these cases were prosecuted and neither one would have been prevented by L.D. 1376.
Maine has the third highest voter turnout in the country. The only two states with higher turnout also allow same-day voter registration. Before allowing same-day registration in 1972, our voter turnout was twenty-first in the country. Why would we want to turn back the clock to a time when voting was not as accessible and reduce our voter turnout?
The people who register to vote on Election Day tend to be young voters registering for the first time, college students, single parents, homeless, and low-income people who move frequently. There are a lot of people in Portland, particularity in the district I represent, that would be impacted if this bill is passed.