How hard will Maine GOP push voter ID?

AUGUSTA — When Mainers voted last week to overturn the Legislature's repeal of Election Day registration, the state's voting rights debate shifted immediately to LD 199.

AP file photo

Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, is the lead sponsor of a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballot. Cebra's bill is expected to come up during the next session, but some wonder if that effort will be hampered by Mainers' resounding rejection last week of a law that repealed Election Day registration.

The bill, held over from last session, would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. The measure had more than 80 Republican co-sponsors, support that would seem to suggest that Mainers should brace for a debate over voter fraud and disenfranchisement like the one that dominated the months leading up to last week's referendum on EDR.

But there are political considerations that could determine just how hard Republican lawmakers will push LD 199 when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Voters defeated the EDR repeal 2-to-1. While progressive groups led the coalition for the people's veto effort, the campaign message was designed to appeal to voters of all persuasions. Election Day results suggest that effort was successful, as voters in Republican and Democratic districts statewide supported EDR.

Also, 2012 is an election year, and there are many in the GOP that think it's time to drill into the issues that helped Republicans sweep into power in 2010. 

"I would much rather we focus energy on our economic agenda and making the state a better place to do business," Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said. "We only have so much time and energy to get things done, especially in an abbreviated session."

Katz was one of five Republican senators who originally voted against the voter ID bill last session. He said Monday that he had seen little since then to change his mind.

Most GOP lawmakers felt differently about voter ID than Katz. However, his desire to avoid another partisan debate over ballot access may well resonate with members of his party, particularly in an election year.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been advancing a narrative that the GOP majority has spent too little time focusing on the economy because it's looking for an advantage at the ballot box.

Democrats hammered that message during debates over EDR, congressional redistricting and GOP maneuvering to change the state's Clean Election Act.

The fight over voting rights continues to rage nationally. In Washington, D.C., congressional Democrats are calling on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to hold hearings on the proliferation of new voter laws, arguing that Congress should consider intervening to make sure those laws don't restrict ballot access.

Republicans argue that the new laws are necessary to protect the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the bills are designed to curb voting by Democratic-leaning constituencies such as minorities and the poor.

Twenty-seven states have laws requiring voters to have identification to cast ballots. Critics like the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine say the requirement creates barriers for the elderly, young voters, the handicapped and homeless people.

State Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, is the lead sponsor of the photo ID proposal.

"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 earlier this year.

Rep. Mike Carey, D-Lewiston, serves on the committee that heard the debates for the EDR repeal and the voter ID.

"The arguments for these proposals were very similar," he said. "It's all about voter fraud. But as we've seen, there's almost no occurrence of fraud in Maine."

He added, "It's confusing to me why some think a national playbook would work in Maine."

Secretary of State Charlie Summers supported LD 199. Summers said last spring that the state could issue free IDs for people in need and allow different forms of acceptable IDs other than driver licenses.

A new voter ID law in Wisconsin is facing a legal challenge. One of the problems, critics say, is that while it technically allows college students to use their school-issued IDs, none of the state's universities or colleges issue IDs that meet the new requirements of the law.

Such cases could become part of the Legislature's debate over LD 199. The intensity of the public battle will depend on how hard the GOP wants to push the issue.

House Speaker Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said last week that the discussion over voter ID should be different than the bill that repealed EDR. Nutting, the lead sponsor of the voter-defeated EDR bill, said it was too early to draw any conclusions from last week's referendum.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

KRIS KUCERA's picture

The Poll Tax Re-Revistited

While our GOP-controlled legislature takes on more of this exclusionary, nefarious nonsense, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has their own idea of how to grandstand while doing absolutely nothing to help create jobs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-god-we-trust-house-re-affirms-...

The GOP: The Know-Nothing, Do Nothing Party.

GARY SAVARD's picture

I agree with the posters here

I agree with the posters here that it's time to focus on other issues, however, to pretend that what the republicans in Augusta are focusing on here is something the democrats never did when they had Augusta in their grip, that being to try to shove issues that played to their agendas through the legislature, is pure horse manure.

David  Cote's picture

Not neccessary

Let's move on. It's time for the reps in Augusta to turn their attention toward legislation that is actually important to the people in their districts. This voter I.D. bill does not qualify as such. The powers that be need to put more effort and sweat into doing their actual jobs they were elected to perform, such as attracting new business, keeping existing businesses strong and viable and doing all they can so that our kids will choose to stake a claim for themselves here in Maine instead of venturing toward greener pastures in other states instead of wasting time and resources on this steaming pile of waste.

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

The goal remains the same

Suppressing the votes of those less likely to vote Republican. Nutting, Ray, Webster, and Summers, LLC, will protest that it's about preventing voter fraud though voter fraud is not now and never has bee a problem. "But, it could be," they'll protest, their noses growing longer by the second.

The ideal voter ID law sounds simple - voters must possess a valid Maine driver's license or a state issued ID. Student ID's are NOT sufficient. A military ID is NOT sufficient. A passport is NOT sufficient. Only ID's issued by BMV.

Sounds reasonable unless you're in your 70's have macular degeneration and depend on a neighbor to drive you to the nearest branch office, 45 minutes away, for a state ID. Or perhaps your a student from Vermont (gasp, Commies!) voting under the rights granted to you in Symm v the United States and you really prefer not to give up your Vermont license just to make the two Charlies happy. Or maybe a Coast Guardsman who grew up, has parents in and will someday return to Hawaii (especially after a maine winter or two) and you want to vote under Symm, but the two Charlies just know that under that uniform is the leader of an al Qaida sleeper cell who
will vote for the ultimate Muslim mole - Barack Hussein Obama.

I would suggest Republican leaders pull teir thumbs out of their .... and get to work on real problems. Tell the Koch Brothers that money can't buy everything - not even an election in Maine.

This is getting tiresome

Will someone with some brains please tell the GOP that there are more important things than voter ID issues.

In Maine there have been very few real reports of fraud, and the GOP is wasting time and money doing useless, trivial things.

Do your jobs and get something of substance done. It's what we pay you for, and we expect more than silly debates about voter ID!

In fact, if you don't do your jobs as we expect you to, you might be unemployed next election cycle.

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