Thomaston wants same-day voter registration back

Posted Aug. 10, 2011, at 5:29 p.m.

THOMASTON, Maine — The Board of Selectmen here have announced that they stand with 68,000 other Mainers who are petitioning to nullify a new law that bans same-day voter registration.

According to the town’s newsletter, sent out Wednesday, “the Town of Thomaston and the State of Maine have an excellent voter turnout on Election Day, allowing those who wish to vote that opportunity” and therefore Thomaston backs the petition.

Thomaston had 219 residents vote in its last local election; eight of them registered the day of. The town had 1,398 people vote in the last presidential election, but did not have information about how many of those voters registered on Election Day.

Supporters of the law said it would achieve two things: reduce municipal workloads on Election Day and reduce voter fraud.

Thomaston officials said they don’t need their Election Day workload reduced and haven’t seen a case of voter fraud in at least 50 years. Because the town only had eight voters register on Election Day, Town Manager Valmore Blastow said there isn’t much of a burden on the town, but the law will hurt those few voters who don’t preregister.

“If somehow you can arbitrarily disenfranchise someone from voting and make it too late to accommodate them, you failed,” Blastow said. “If people were fraudulently voting, that’s one thing, but [Thomaston selectmen] feel this could disenfranchise voters on the day of voting and there is no reason to do that.”

Largely along party lines, state legislators in June passed the law that ended Maine’s 38-year practice of allowing voters to register on Election Day.

But a coalition of advocacy groups and volunteers in Maine gathered more than 68,000 signatures in a people’s veto effort to overturn the law. If the signatures that were delivered to the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday are verified, voters will get to decide at referendum in November whether they want to reinstate same day registration.

BDN writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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