Mainers will have an opportunity this fall to affirm or overturn legislation passed in June to repeal the state’s 38-year-old law allowing voters to register on the day of an election. Secretary of State Charlie Summers validated more than 70,000 signatures — about 13,000 more than needed to force the referendum– on Thursday, about a month after opponents of the new legislation submitted them.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the voter registration law largely along party lines. Supporters of the measure said that eliminating same-day registration would help ease the workload of municipal clerks, even though a representative of the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association said the group wouldn’t mind maintaining the practice.
The prohibition on same-day registration cannot take effect while a people’s veto is pending. A portion of the law that sets new limits on absentee voting is not part of the people’s veto effort and will not be affected by the referendum.
Members of the coalition that led the signature gathering who say that eliminating same-day registration would disproportionately affect disabled, elderly and student voters, cheered Summers’ ruling.
“Election Day registration makes it possible for many hardworking Mainers to participate,” said Barbara McDade, president of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We shouldn’t create new ways to make participation harder.”
The question, “Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Law of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?” will top the Nov. 8 ballot.