A five-member panel charged with reviewing Maine’s election system and suggesting improvements is unlikely to recommend that the state require voters present identification — photo or otherwise — at the polls. The Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine met Friday to begin drafting its report with recommendations for strengthening Maine’s election system. A majority of the commission’s members said they opposed instituting a voter identification system in Maine. “It really comes down to the fact that there isn’t any need in Maine at this time, and there isn’t the will for it,” said former U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby, one of the commission members.
The commission started work on its report Friday after holding public hearings around the state during the summer and fall where members solicited comments on all aspects of Maine’s election system. Those who attended the hearings were largely opposed to a voter identification requirement in Maine.
Municipal clerks who spoke at public hearings said such a requirement could slow down the voting process and add to lines that are already long on Election Day, noted John Atwood, a former Maine Superior Court judge who is chairman of the elections commission. In small towns where election officials are likely to know voters, IDs are unnecessary, commission members heard at the public sessions. And in some areas of Maine, Atwood said, residents have limited access to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and other offices that issue IDs.
Atwood also cited research from the Brennan Center for Justice provided to the commission that found that 11 percent of eligible voters lack government-issued photo IDs.
For a voter ID system to work and not disenfranchise voters, he said, the system would need a number of exemptions. The state also would need to spend scarce resources to develop a voter ID that could be provided to voters at no charge, Atwood said.
“In the end, I’d be against voter ID,” he said. “The cons far outweigh the pros.”