Legislature Listens to Voters, Rejects Barrier to Voting

March 13, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

AUGUSTA – The Maine State Senate today helped to protect voting rights by passing an amended version of LD 199.

As originally proposed, the Legislation would have required voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot during an election.

The language of the bill, which would have created unnecessary hurdles to voting, was replaced with a resolve tasking the Secretary of State to study changes to Maine’s election system.

“The Legislature has rejected another attempt to make it harder for Mainers to vote,” said Alysia Melnick, Public Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Maine. “Today is a victory for voters and voting rights. It’s clear that the Legislature heard the voice of voters in the fall, when they overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to restrict this fundamental right.”

In November, voters rejected an attempt to eliminate same-day voter registration.

Requiring voters to present photo ID before participating in elections creates an unacceptable burden for thousands of eligible Maine voters.

“Maine’s elections work. They are well-run and efficient,” said Ann Luther of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “While some have been working tighten voter restrictions and undermine voter rights, others have been working to defend Maine’s legacy of strong voter participation. The successful efforts to stop a voter ID requirement and to restore same-day voter registration show that Maine voters are willing and able to defend their rights.”

Both photo ID requirements and the elimination of same-day voter registration disproportionately affect low-income voters, older voters, people with disabilities and women, who move often or do not have easy access to state-issued credentials.

“By rejecting new restrictions on voting, thousands of people who otherwise would have lost their right to vote can still participate,” said Laura Harper of the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Although the amended language of the bill protects voting rights, the study language that was adopted is redundant and unnecessary. The Office of the Secretary of State already has the authority to review election practices and propose changes without additional action by the Legislature.

“The ACLU of Maine will remain vigilant and will oppose efforts to rollback voting rights,” Melnick said. “Voting is a cornerstone to our democracy, and we should do everything in our power to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate.”

 

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