Gov. Paul LePage has signed a controversial bill that bans voters from registering on an election day, but critics who say the law disenfranchises voters have vowed to challenge that change through the citizens’ referendum process.
The governor signed LD 1376 on Tuesday, along with several other bills that have come across his desk in recent weeks, but did not offer any comments, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said.
The bill, an Act To Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process, was sponsored by House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, and endorsed by Secretary of State Charlie Summers, In addition to eliminating same-day voter registration, the legislation bans absentee voting two days before Election Day.
Supporters said the changes would cut down on Election Day mistakes and relieve stress on municipal election officials. Many Democratic lawmakers, who were less concerned with the absentee voting portion of the bill, criticized the bill as a whole for making it harder for Mainers to vote.
Republicans have said eliminating same-day registration simply cuts down on voter fraud, but Democrats accused their counterparts of trying to solve a problem that does not exist.
Although the legislation passed through the House and Senate earlier this month, both votes were narrow and along party lines.
On the same day the governor signed LD 1376, a coalition of advocacy groups led by the Maine League of Women Voters and the Maine Civil Liberties Union started the process for initiating a people’s veto.
“The right to vote is under attack in Maine,” said Barbara McDade, president of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “Same-day voter registration has been part of Maine elections for 38 years. But this long-standing practice, which helped almost 70,000 people participate during the last two general elections, is under assault. We have filed this petition to protect voting rights and to assure that every resident of Maine has the opportunity to participate.”
The people’s veto applies only to the portion of the law that eliminates same-day or Election Day registration. It does not apply to the other technical amendments to the law included in LD 1376.