Maine voters restore same-day voter registration

Paris residents line up to vote Tuesday at the Paris Fire Station. Town Clerk Elizabeth Knox said the voters had been steady all day, with a few long lines in the morning and at around 5 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A law requiring voters to enroll at least two days before an election was repealed Tuesday, restoring a four-decade policy of allowing registrations up to and including Election Day.

With 46 percent of precincts reporting, the proposal to repeal the newly enacted requirement passed with 59 percent of the vote.

"This is a big day for the voters of Maine," said David Farmer, spokesman for the Yes on One campaign. "They stood up for their rights to be heard. This tells us that Maine people won't stand for people messing with their elections."

The referendum was put on the ballot through a people's veto initiative after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law in June requiring voters to register at least two business days before an election is held. That set aside a state law passed in 1973 that allows Election Day, or same-day, registrations.

The nonpartisan public policy organization Brennan Center for Justice at New York University saw the law as part of a trend across the nation to pass laws keeping millions of potential voters from casting ballots.

Tuesday's vote in Maine "was certainly a reflection of popular opposition to these laws and the popularity of same-day registration," the Brennan Center's Wendy Weiser said.

In conceding, Maine Republican Party Chairman Charles Webster said, "The people spoke," adding that his side was outgunned financially but was still proud of its grassroots campaign.

Working on a compressed time frame to force a fall referendum, a coalition of 18 groups that included organized labor, civil libertarians, consumer and public health advocates, disabled and homeless groups mounted a petition drive that temporarily put the two-day registration law backed by Republicans on hold.

The public debate that followed was marked by Webster's accusations of voter fraud, made possible by same-day registration. Webster's charges centered on university students who came from other states.

A review by Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers concluded that there was no fraud, but Summers also said it showed Maine's election laws needed further hedges against abuse.

Republicans insisted that the two-day requirement gives local clerks more time to check for abuse and make the state's election system more airtight. They said the issue has major political implications in Maine's political environment; elections and State House power can be decided by a relatively few votes.

Supporters of same-day registration countered that the law has long encouraged voter participation and has helped give Maine a consistent record of high turnouts. George Mitchell, the former Democratic U.S. Senate leader who also served as special envoy under two presidents, endorsed same-day registration as well.

"The path of history is clear. Our country has consistently marched forward, making our elections more accessible and open, and encouraging more people to participate," Mitchell said in a statement released days before the election by same-day registration supporters.

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Comments

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Back in 2012

Of course this will be back in 2012. Republicans have oodles of ways to keep voters away from the voting booth. They are already talking about a photo ID law. Never mind what it will cost. When you are in the minority you can win by logical persuasion,fear and bigotry, cheating or secret money.Guess which one they never use. The Republicans in Augusta should be reading the tea leaves on this one and take pause before they pass any more voter intimidation laws.

Scott Foster's picture

Voting importance

What I have a hard time understanding is if voting is sooooo important, why can't you get yourself to the town hall to register on one of the 240 other days of the business year? You find time to register your car once a year. You only have to register once unless you move. What is everyone so afraid of? I don't believe the fact that we have same day voter registration is the reason we have high voter turnout. What is the number of same day voters in any given election?

GARY SAVARD's picture

Living in the "Now" is

Living in the "Now" is synonymous with either being near sighted or having a selective memory, really.

Mark Elliott's picture

all this means now is the

all this means now is the process will be scrutinized more closely in an effort to keep this question from coming back. Those that felt their rights were being taken away this time will be more vigilant in future elections so as not to "lose their rights" down the road. All it takes is a few cheaters to ruin it for all. Don't let it happen. If you see it, say something......

We're going to find, both sides scrutinizing the process in the future.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Tony, 38% didn't do well for

Tony, 38% didn't do well for Baldacci & Co., either. They got slammed several times by peoples' vetos. Wow, I said this without resorting to name calling!

GARY SAVARD's picture

Jason, I agree that it will

Jason, I agree that it will be back in 2012, and I suspect this time it will pass.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Modern-Day Poll Tax Defeated.

Our votes were secure before the new Republican-backed law -- and are still secure now that it's booted. Nce try LeRage, Summers, and Co. 39% won't win you any referendums. And it won't be enough in 2014, LeRage.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Tony, you are overlooking the

Tony, you are overlooking the peoples' vetos of laws passed by Baldacci & Co. when they ruled Augusta, like the snack & beverage tax, the gay marriage legalization, and the infamous income tax overhaul that added sales taxes to almost everything but golf. Near sighted or selective memory?

Tony Morin's picture

Just living in the now!

Catch up.

Mark Elliott's picture

you may want to tell the

you may want to tell the administration in Washington to "live in the now" and stop blaming the past.

Jason Theriault's picture

Marriage equality

Barely lost, and it's coming back in 2012

Tony Morin's picture

That's what I'm talking about!!

Way to go people! We're a blue state! I think the red experiment is over.

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