Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Republican leaders are supporting a bill that would eliminate Maine’s 38-year-old same-day voting registration and ban absentee voting two business days before Election Day.
Proponents say the bill 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 those voters often are students, the elderly or disabled. Groups such as the Maine Civil Liberties Union believe LD 1376 is an attempt by Republicans to gain an electoral advantage.
Summers said the bill is designed to “protect the integrity of voting” by alleviating pressure on town clerks on Election Day. He said the bill “has nothing to do with voter fraud,” an issue that has yielded only two prosecutions in Maine history.
Summers said technological advances allowed “interest groups of all stripes to drive people to the polls.”
“That’s a good thing,” Summers said. “But because they’re doing that in such large numbers, the clerks … are working from a 1973 elections model and they’re getting 2011 technology dropped on top of them.” He added that the stress could result in mistakes being made.
Rep. Mike Carey, D-Lewiston, and other Democrats say the bill addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. Carey believes the proposal is designed to curb Democrats’ same-day voter mobilization, efforts that he thinks Republicans emulated and used to their advantage in 2010.