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Portland -- The ACLU of Maine will testify tonight, urging the Commission on Elections to reject any unreasonable restrictions on voting. The Commission on Elections is holding a public hearing on voting rights at the Rines Auditorium of the Portland Public Library at 5:30 pm. Tonight's hearing comes a day after voting rights advocates, including the ACLU of Florida, won a significant court case in Florida, repealing controversial restrictions on voter registration in that state.
"Yesterday's court ruling in Florida confirms that restrictions on voter registration and civic participation are discriminatory and unconstitutional," said ACLU of Maine Executive Director Shenna Bellows. "Maine election laws have worked well to protect the right to vote for all Maine citizens in our elections. We continue to urge the Commission on Elections to resist any measures that would prevent Mainers from participating fully and fairly in our elections."
Florida was one of several states to implement measures restricting voting rights. The Florida legislature had passed restrictions on the rights of civic groups to engage in voter registration, but a federal judge ruled yesterday that he will permanently remove those restrictions on voter registration. Civic groups like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote may resume their efforts to register new voters in Florida.
"Voting is a fundamental constitutional right, a right upon which all of our other rights depend," said ACLU of Maine Executive Director Shenna Bellows. "If the government is going to restrict our freedoms, it needs to have a reason, and there's simply no reason in Maine to roll back our voting rights."
Tonight's hearing in Maine is the second of a series of public hearings that the Commission to Study Election Practices, appointed by Secretary of State Charlie Summers, will hold around the state to survey public attitudes about voting. The Commission was created as an alternative to LD 199, which sought to implement a controversial voter ID. At last week's public hearing in Augusta, 19 people testified before the Commission urging them to reject voter ID and instead recommend measures to expand voter participation. Following tonight's hearing in Portland, the third public hearing will take place in Bangor at 5:30 p.m. on September 13 at Bangor City Hall.