February 3

Maine House OKs early-voting measure

If finally approved, cities and towns could allow in-person voting and ballot counting before Election Day.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

In the 6th Circuit Court decision, the ruling found that “early voters have disproportionately lower incomes and less education than Election Day voters,” adding that many of them were less likely to have jobs that allowed them to take time off and vote on Election Day.

The partisan battle over ballot access has a history in Maine, too.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that eliminated the state’s 38-year-old practice of same-day Election Day registration by requiring voters to register at least two business days before an election. The bill also prohibited absentee voting two days or less before Election Day.

Democrats and progressive groups quickly launched a highly organized and well-funded campaign to overturn the prohibition. Despite Republican claims that same-day voter registration made the voting system vulnerable to fraud, Maine voters overwhelmingly voted to restore same-day voter registration.

The prohibition on absentee ballots cast within two days of Election Day remains.

Maine has tested early voting before in two separate pilot programs.

The first was offered in 2007 by three municipalities – Portland, Bangor and Readfield. More than 1,800 voters cast early ballots, and municipal officials “enthusiastically embraced” it, according to a report from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The office later proposed a constitutional amendment to allow early voting, but it fell short in the Legislature.

A larger pilot program took place in 2009, when nine municipalities participated, allowing early voting Oct. 26-31 and on Nov. 2, the day before Election Day.

Nearly 13,000 people, or 23 percent of those who voted, used the program. The Secretary of State’s Office said in a survey that 98 percent of those voters supported the option for future elections.

This story has been corrected to remove a reference to when early vote ballots are counted. All ballots are counted after the polls close on Election Day.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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