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Maine Votes "No" to Voter Suppression

Shenna Bellows,
ACLU of Maine
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November 9, 2011

Sixty percent of Mainers overwhelmingly endorsed Election Day Registration today. Voters in small towns and large in every county in the state cast a vote of confidence in the security and integrity of our election systems. Maine has enjoyed Election Day Registration for almost forty years since it was first passed in 1973 by a Republican-controlled legislature. Election Day Registration, or "Same Day Registration" as it is often called locally, allows hard-working people, some working two or three jobs, to register and vote on Election Day. It has led to Maine being first in the nation in voter participation in 2010.

Unfortunately, in 2011, Maine was not immune to the wave of attacks on voting rights all across the country. The legislature narrowly passed the ban on Election Day Registration and sought (unsuccessfully) to implement a voter ID requirement as well. Maine Republican Party Chair, Charlie Webster, accused over 200 college students of committing voter fraud. The Maine Secretary of State, Charlie Summers, wrongly targeted those students for investigation. When he found that none of them had committed voter fraud, the Secretary of State then encouraged the students to un-enroll nonetheless, issuing threats about prosecution under Maine's motor vehicles laws. It was a shameful episode that demonstrated decisively the scare tactics of those who seek to limit our voting rights. The ACLU and our colleagues at Demos called on the Secretary of State to cease and desist his activities, which we believe violated the federal Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution.

Despite the scare tactics, Maine voters know that Election Day Registration works, and it has worked well for nearly forty years to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise our right to vote. We have a saying in Maine, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The ACLU of Maine was proud to co-chair this successful campaign. We are grateful to our 22 coalition partners, the 1,000+ volunteers who worked on this campaign, and to the hundreds of thousands of Mainers who turned out to vote on Election Day.

What's next? Some of our opponents are agitating for passage of a harsh voter ID law when the legislature reconvenes in January. There is legislation, LD 199, that has been tabled until then. The ACLU of Maine and our partners, including the League of Women Voters and the AARP of Maine, will continue to advocate against any barriers to voting. And now we know, 60 percent of Maine voters have our back.

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