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Campaign Begins to Protect Election Day Voter Registration in Maine

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Protect Maine Votes coalition successfully led a petition drive over the summer to place the law, LD 1376, on the Nov. 8 ballot.

CREDIT: Ap Photo / Jerry Lai

Voting rights’ advocates have launched a campaign to overturn a Maine law passed by the state Legislature in June that requires citizens to register to vote at least two business days before an election and eliminates same-day registration.

The Protect Maine Votes coalition—which includes labor groups, civil libertarians, and advocates for public health, the disabled, and the homeless—successfully led a petition drive over the summer to place the law, LD 1376, on the Nov. 8 ballot.

After securing a Nov. 8 referendum vote, the group began voter outreach efforts last week. Protect Maine Votes officials said they’ll run an aggressive, grassroots effort assisted by more than 1,000 volunteers to encourage Mainers to vote “yes” on Ballot Question 1.

Proponents of the legislation maintain that its purpose is to ensure integrity in the voting process, but recent developments may undermine their position.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charles Webster’s claims of widespread voter fraud have been debunked by Maine’s Secretary of State. Furthermore, several state legislators who supported the legislation have themselves used of Election Day registration in the past. Media reports revealing this hypocrisy have led to calls for a special legislative session to repeal the law.

Protect Maine Votes and its allies point out that Election Day registration, effective in the state for the past 38 years, has made Maine among the leading states in voter turnout.

Nearly 60,000 voters registered on Election Day in 2008, and Maine’s overall turnout was 71 percent, the third highest in the nation. The average 2008 turnout among all states with Election Day registration was 7 percent higher than states without same-day registration.

“Election Day registration makes it possible for many hardworking Mainers to participate,” says Protect Maine Votes coalition leader Barbara McDade. “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We shouldn't create new ways to make participation harder.”

Same-day registration benefits more mobile populations (especially youth and low-income voters) who may have difficulty registering at new addresses prior to standard registration deadlines. Election Day registration is a policy that, according to Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield, “ensures that all eligible voters can cast their ballots, without jumping through unnecessary hoops,” and should be practiced by more, not fewer, states.

Devon Brown is an intern with Campus Progress.

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