A shortage of voter registration cards on hand at the Maine Secretary of State’s office is frustrating some groups and candidates who are launching drives to enroll new voters. The Maine Democratic Party says the secretary has dispensed up to 1,000 cards at a time in the past. Now that number has dropped to 50. Officials at the Secetary of State’s office say they are merely updating their forms and that new cards should be available next month. Colleen Lachowicz showed up at the Secretary of State’s office last week to pick up some voter registration cards. As a Democratic state Senate candidate from Waterville, she thought might use some of her campaigning time to register new voters. Although the Secretary of State’s Office commonly allows candidates such as Lachowicz to take up to a 1,000 cards, she says that’s not what she got. “I was told they only had 250 left so they said they could give me 20,” she says. “And I said, ‘Could I have 50?’ And so I was able to get 50 of them. And they had me sign a paper saying they could give me 50.” Lachowiscz says she can’t help but wonder about the effect the state’s current rationing system is having statewide. “I’m just concerned that if there’s only 250 of these things left, I’m sure there’s more than 250 people that want to get registered to vote at this time.”
Other groups are also concerned. Nicola Wells is the state director for the Maine League of Young Voters, which is preparing for a full-scale voter registration drive. Wells says that if all she gets is 50 cards when she goes to the Secretary of State’s office, her group will have to reassess their plans. (In the interest of disclosure, Wells is a member of the MPBN board of directors.) “You can go through 50 cards in a day or two if you’ve got volunteers going out there,” Wells says. “You know, we’re an entirely volunteer-led organization, so we’re working with Mainers that are just like your neighbors, friends at work who are taking time out of their busy schedules because they want to make sure that their friends and neighbors have the right to vote. And so if they can’t go out with emply voter cards and get those all filled out, that’s a major kink in the works.”
Complaints about the lack of voter registration cards follow calls last week that Secretary of State Charlie Summers resign his position as he pursues his Republican bid for the U.S. Senate. Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said Summers was either trying to limit Mainers access to the ballot or was having problems managing the Secretary of State’s office.