Increasing Participation Should Be Focus of Election Commission

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
August 23, 2012 9:58 am

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PORTLAND – The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the League of Women Voters of Maine will testify this evening at a public hearing being held in Augusta by the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine.

“The ACLU of Maine and the League of Women Voters are vigilant in our efforts to protect the integrity of the voting process. The biggest challenges in our election system are increasing voter turnout, creating opportunities for voter registration, and fighting against voter suppression efforts,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine. “There is a disturbing national trend in which new and unnecessary hurdles to voting are being enacted. Maine’s elections work well. Maine should not go down the path of making it harder for lawful voters to participate.”

Last year, Maine voters restored same-day voter registration by an overwhelming majority, rejecting a new law that threatened to reduce voter participation by nearly 50,000 people. Similar laws, including requirements for voters to present state-issued identification, have been enacted across the country.

“Maine has a long tradition of strong voter participation, and we are consistently among the leaders in voter participation nationally,” said Ann Luther of the League of Women Votes of Maine. “In 2010’s gubernatorial election, our state had the highest rate of turnout in the country, at around 55%. We can do better. We should make it easier for eligible voters to participate, not harder.”

The Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine was created to review voter participation, voter registration, and the conduct of elections in Maine.

“Maine voters take their right to vote very seriously, and our clerks do a great job of managing an incredible workload,” said John Paterson, President of the Board of Directors for the ACLU of Maine. “We believe that Maine’s elections can be improved by adequately staffing town elections, by modernizing and standardizing election practices, and by taking steps to encourage voter participation.”

Voting fraud is rare, both nationally and in Maine. Yet it is often used as an excuse to create new barriers to voting.

An analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000, covered by Pine Tree Watchdog, shows that the rate of voter fraud is infinitesimal, and that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state Legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent.

“Our highest priority should be to increase participation and make sure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate,” Luther said.

The Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections is scheduled to meet at the following times:

Augusta – Aug. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at UMA in the Richard J. Randall Student Center, Rm. 138

Portland – Aug. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Portland Public Library in the Rines Auditorium (Lower Level)

Bangor – Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Bangor City Hall in the City Council Chambers

Farmington – Sept. 27 at 5:45 p.m. at UMF in Dining Hall C

Lewiston – Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Lewiston High School

Wells – Oct. 25 at 5:30 p.m. at York County Community College in the Mid-Café

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