Maine’s high ranking for voter turnout may change as a result of new legislation ending same-day voter registration. After thirty-eight years, a sleeping (political) giant is now awake in the Pine Tree State. In June of 2011, the Maine State Legislature repealed the long-standing law permitting Mainers to register to vote on the same day as elections, and replaced it with a new law prohibiting same-day voter registration.
Pursuant to LD 1376, Maine now requires that all in-person registrations occur no later than the third business day prior to the election date. Maine’s departure from being one of the country’s eight states to offer same-day voter registration was not a landslide victory. In the House, seventy-two representatives voted in favor, while sixty-five were opposed and thirteen representatives were absent, and the Senate showed a similar divide with seventeen votes in favor, fourteen against, and four excused.
The close divide in both the House and Senate illustrates the partisan divide over same-day registration which was ultimately passed under Maine’s Republican majority. Reportedly, only one House Republican and two Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to oppose the legislation.
Given the partisan divide, one wonders whether politics may ever be taken out of the same-day voter registration conversation. Peter Chandler, Chief of Staff for Congressman Michael Michaud (D-Maine) said*, “Politics will never be taken out of the issue of same-day voter registration.” The political fire began in the immediate aftermath of LD 1376′s passage, when the League of Women Voters of Maine filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office, launching a people’s veto campaign. On September 8, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers announced that the League’s coalition submitted over 70,000 valid signatures, exceeding the minimum requirement by about thirteen thousand. As a result, the issue will be on the November 8 ballot.