The House of Representatives approved a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday to allow an enhanced early-voting system in Maine, but the 92-56 vote was several short of the two-thirds margin that will be needed for final passage. The bill, L.D. 156, sponsored by Rep. Michael Shaw, D-Standish, would change the Maine Constitution to give cities and towns the option of allowing in-person voting before Election Day. It does not specify how long before Election Day voting could take place. The same bill received majority votes in the House and Senate last year, but fell short of the two-thirds margin in both chambers. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Legislature, held the bill before it failed final passage last year and brought it back for the current session.
If finally approved by the House and Senate by two-thirds majorities, the bill would then go to voters in a referendum, where a simple majority vote would make it law.
Maine is one of 27 states that already allow no-excuse absentee voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference also lists Maine as one of 32 states that already allow early, in-person voting, but all early voting in Maine is done via absentee ballot. Absentee ballots aren’t counted until Election Day, whereas early votes are tallied before then.
Town and municipal clerks have complained that the absentee ballot process can be burdensome on Election Day.