By a single vote, the Maine Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would require voters to produce a photographic identification at the polls when voting. The 18-17 vote followed a lively floor debate in which Republican supporters of the bill argued protecting the integrity of the state’s voting system was their primary objective. If the bill, LD 197, were to pass into law, Maine would become the 32nd state to require some form of photo identification at the polls. The bill’s sponsors said that voting should be treated the same as other activities that require proof of identity, including buying alcohol, cigarettes or being allowed to vote in a union election.
“Does not the privilege of voting deserve to be protected in the same manner?” Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, asked his colleagues.
But opponents said the requirement would create unnecessary barriers for some prospective voters.
Sen. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, said his city’s clerk offered testimony against the bill, noting she believed it would disenfranchise many voters, especially elderly, poor and disabled citizens. “This is going to make their ability to exercise their right, not their privilege, to cast their ballot more difficult,” Libby said.