A law that would require Maine voters to present photo identification for every election is still before the Legislature, though it has failed to gain the two-thirds support it needs for passage. While a majority of senators voted against the bill, lawmakers eventually decided to send it back to committee for revision.
Also uncertain is the fate of a recently passed bill that would eliminate Maine’s 38-year-old law allowing same-day voter registration, with at least one group vowing to lead a people’s veto campaign against it. Opponents of both measures say they are part of a nationwide Republican effort to restrict voting by certain populations.
“Voter suppression bills have been advanced in states all across the country with the effect of surely reducing voter turnout in the next elections,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.
She said the bills would affect young voters, elderly voters and those who struggle to get time off from work to vote.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states that had no voter ID laws at the beginning of 2011 have considered such measures, and 13 that required some form of identification have considered bills to require photo IDs at the polls.
Maine has been one of only eight states to allow same-day registration. Supporters of the Maine bills, including Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Republican legislative leaders, say the bills are intended to maintain integrity at the polls and prevent fraud.
The bill to require photo IDs, L.D. 199, has been deemed a “state mandate” because of the cost for cities and towns to implement it, so it needs two-thirds approval by the House and Senate. It passed with a simple majority in the House and failed in the Senate, with 19 votes in opposition to 15 votes in support. But three of the five Republican senators who voted against the bill also voted against killing it.
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