Bill would require Maine voters to show photo ID

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine for years has made voting as easy and convenient as possible. But casting ballots could soon become harder for some people under a proposal to require voters to present photo identification at the polls.

Richard Cebra
Pat Wellenbach

Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, holds up his drivers license as he poses in his office at the State House in Augusta, Maine, on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Cebra is a co-sponser of a Maine proposal that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

Supporters say requiring photo IDs is prudent to safeguard the state's election system. Twenty-seven other states have laws requiring voters to have identification to cast ballots.

But critics say the bill creates a barrier to voting — particularly for the elderly, young voters, the handicapped and homeless people. The law isn't needed because Maine doesn't have a voter fraud problem, said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

"A voter ID law is expensive, unnecessary and will just make it harder for people to vote," she said.

State Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, said he's sponsoring two bills in the Legislature that go hand-in-hand: the photo ID proposal and another that would require candidates for public office to provide proof of citizenship.

"I believe it's incumbent on the state to do everything it can to verify and secure both who's getting on the ballot as well as who the voters are," Cebra said.

The idea of voter identification has been a hot topic in state legislatures over the past decade. Since 2001, more than 700 bills have been introduced in 46 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A dozen states have passed new voter ID laws since 2003.

Under Cebra's bill — which has 83 co-sponsors, none of whom are Democrats — voters would have to provide a photo ID approved by the secretary of state's office, which would hammer out the final rules. The bill has been taken up by the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

Secretary of State Charles Summers, who supports the bill, said he favors phasing in the new law over time and allowing a broad selection of acceptable IDs. The state could issue free IDs for people in need, he said.

Nearly everybody is already using IDs in various walks of their lives, Summers said.

"Whether you're talking about going to the airport and showing your ID to get on an airplane, or taking your child to register for Little League and showing a birth certificate, it's something we're fairly used to doing," Summer said. "I think if this tightens the process up and adds a little more security, I don't see that as being a bad thing."

Not everybody's convinced.

Nancy Kelleher, director of the AARP in Maine, said the law will hurt Maine's elderly population. Many elderly people don't have driver's licenses and will find it hard to get a photo ID because they don't have the needed documents, transportation, money or wherewithal.

Nobody wants to prevent voter fraud more than the elderly, who turn out in large numbers at elections, but forcing them to show a photo ID would be overly burdensome, Kelleher said.

"I think this is one of those cases where it may have sounded like a good idea but it has unintended consequences," she said.

Opponents further point out that Maine has had few cases of voter fraud over the years. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, who oversees election matters, said she knows of only two voter fraud cases in her 16 years in the office.

Both those cases were prosecuted last year after it was discovered that people had voted illegally in two different towns in the same election. In both cases, the voters owned property in both towns and were not trying to influence the outcome of the election.

Maine for years has been known for its liberal election laws and it high voter turnouts.

The state has allowed voters to register by mail for decades and is one of a handful of states that allows people to register at municipal offices, not county offices. Residents are allowed to vote by absentee ballot without giving a reason, and can register at their polling place on Election Day.

Election-day registration could come to an end under another bill that would eliminate same-day voter registration and make people register in person at least a week in advance of an election.

Bellows said Maine should continue removing voting barriers — not adding them.

"We want more Mainers to participate in our elections, not fewer," she said.

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Comments

RONALD RIML's picture

There's no problem - so why add a restrictive fix??

Representative Cebra is the lunatic who also introduced LD-58, making it a criminal offense punishable by a year in jail for any state employee to enforce any order, rule, or regulation connected to the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

It appears that Dingbat isn't aware of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

If it ain't broke - why inconvenience the populace with an unneccesary fix? This isn't Illinois where Secretary of State Charles Summers came from and where their Republican ex-Governor George Ryan is still in federal prison.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Bill would require Maine voters to show photo ID

LSJ ® & By Clarke Canfield, Associated Press , noon Tuesday
This is dumb . ID's have always ben faked . What we need to do is weed out the felons ( like sexual offenders and Ollie North's ) who have legally lost their right to vote
One doesn't need a photo to do that ?
What is we showed a photo of a DeCoster chicken ? Could we then vote ?
h t h /s, Dr. Dosh
http://www.hawaiistar.com/2009/08/chamber-music-hawaii-previews-new-season/

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Pass the kool-aid, please. No

Pass the kool-aid, please.
No PHOTO; No VOTO.....plain and simple.

AL PELLETIER's picture

good night

Steve, have another cocktail and Aloha.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good LTTE yesterday,

Good LTTE yesterday, sweetfern...well stated.

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