Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Maine Legislators Kill Voter ID Bill

Maine legislators vote to kill Voter ID. From Think Progress:

Though Republicans enjoy full control over Maine’s lawmaking process, they’ve dropped a push to require certain photo identification in order to vote.

Though Maine Republicans were considering voter ID legislation at the beginning of the year, Democrats vociferously objected because the bill could prevent thousands of Mainers from voting, particularly elderly individuals. On Friday, Republicans acceded to those objections, striking the voter ID language from an election law bill. This is the second time voter ID has failed to pass the GOP-controlled Maine legislature. Last year, a voter ID bill failed in the Senate after first being passed by the House.

It does speak well for them that they were concerned about disenfranchising elderly voters. But:

Maine Republicans were chastened during the 2011 session after they passed a bill to eliminate the state’s 38 year-old law allowing for Election Day registration, only to see their move overturned by a citizens veto in November. More than 60 percent of Mainers rebuked the legislature and voted to restore Election Day registration.

This is the real bottom line. Over 60% of Maine voters trounced them with a citizen's veto. They don't want to get that kind of a public spanking any time soon.

In place of this bill, the legislature voted in favor of a resolution. From Maine Public Broadcasting Network:

Put in its place was a resolve calling on the Secretary of State to study changes that might need to be made to Maine's election system, "So that when we do do something there won't be this tugging back and forth and running out to a people's veto," says Republican Committee member Sen. Deb Plowman of Hampden.

Plowman is referring to a vote that happened over another voting rights issue. In November, Maine voters soundly overturned a new law pushed by Republicans that banned the decades-old practice of allowing Election Day voter registration.


But Shenna Bellows of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine challenged the need for legislators to call for a study. "In these difficult economic times, it's irresponsible to waste taxpayer resources on a study to tell the secretary of state to do his job. It is not necessary to use a study to fix clerical errors or administrative errors," Bellows says.

Summers says his primary concern is people voting when they shouldn't be. He says his office is actively investigating instances of non-citizens participating in elections.

In September 2011, I wrote about Maine's GOP Chair trying to create proof of widespread voter fraud by coming up with a list of 200 students that he claimed were voting fraudulently in Maine. This proved to be untrue, in all 200 cases - but this was the "reasoning" used to gin up folks to support a Voter ID law.

The resolution isn't necessary, given that the Secretary of State was the one who investigated the nonexistent student voter fraud From the Bangor Daily News:

After a two-month investigation into possible voter fraud by college students and noncitizens, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers said Wednesday his evidence showed that none of the students committed fraud and only one noncitizen voted in Maine.

Nevertheless, Summers said his investigation confirmed his belief that Maine’s election system is “fragile and vulnerable,” and he vowed to submit legislation in January to fix some of the problems.

GIven that Summers has already announced his intention, the legislative resolution really isn't needed.

This is good news for Maine voters and taxpayers - who really taught their legislature a lesson with the people's veto of the bill to eliminate same day registration.

Voter ID continues to be a solution looking for a problem.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

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