The House of Representatives on Monday gave preliminary approval to a pair of bills that will change how and when Mainers vote. The House voted 74-70 along party lines to approve LD 1376, a bill backed by Republican leadership and Secretary of State Charlie Summers that eliminates Maine’s 38-year-old, same-day voting registration and bans absentee voting two business days before Election Day. The House also voted 75-69 to give preliminary approval to LD 199, a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls.
Proponents of LD 1376 say the legislation is designed to ease the workload of town clerks overwhelmed by an increasing number of voters who cast absentee ballots and who wait until the election to register. But critics counter that the absentee voting issue should be handled separately and without eliminating same-day registration, which they say will affect students, the elderly and the disabled.
Meanwhile, groups such as the Maine Civil Liberties Union believe LD 1376 is a misguided Republican attempt to gain an electoral advantage. Summers has said the bill is designed to “protect the integrity of voting” by alleviating pressure on town clerks on Election Day. He said last week that the bill “has nothing to do with voter fraud,” an issue that has yielded only two prosecutions in Maine history.