People’s veto of same-day voter registration ban will be Question 1 in November

Posted Sept. 08, 2011, at 6:01 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s secretary of state has certified enough petition signatures to ensure a statewide people’s veto referendum in November that asks voters to support or reject a new law banning Election Day voter registration.

Charlie Summers made the announcement late Thursday afternoon, exactly 30 days after Protect Maine Votes, a coalition of progressive advocacy groups, submitted more than 80,000 signatures for consideration.

About 70,000 of those signatures were validated, well above the 57,277 required of the campaign by state law.

“More than a thousand volunteers worked tirelessly to protect a system that has worked well for more than 38 years,” said Mark Gray, campaign manager for Protect Maine Votes. “There’s no reason to change it.”

Per state law, the people’s veto question will be listed first on the ballot, and it will read: “Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Laws of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?”

In June, the Republican-controlled House and Senate voted largely along party lines to pass LD 1376, An Act To Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process. Supporters said the aim was to improve the voting process and alleviate stress on municipal election clerks, although some, including Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, said it would reduce voter fraud.

Supporters of same-day voter registration, however, said voter fraud is not a problem and the 38-year-old law allowing Election Day registration simply makes it easier for Mainers to vote.

“During this tough economy, a lot of people in Maine have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet,” said Barbara McDade, president of the League of Women Voters of Maine, one of the coalition members. “Election Day registration makes it possible for many hardworking Mainers to participate. Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We shouldn’t create new ways to make participation harder.”

LD 1376 also bans absentee voting two days before Election Day. That change is not part of the people’s veto and will become effective on Sept. 28, or 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

With the validation of the people’s veto on Thursday, Summers also made final the order of the four referendum questions in November.

Question 1 will be followed by two citizen initiatives related to the expansion of gambling in Maine.

Question 2 reads: “Do you want to allow a slot machine facility at a harness racing track in Biddeford or another community within 25 miles of Scarborough Downs, subject to local approval, and at a harness racing track in Washington County, with part of the profits from these facilities going to support specific state and local programs?”

Question 3 asks: “Do you want to allow a casino with table games and slot machines in Lewiston, with part of the profits going to support specific state and local programs?”

The final question on the November ballot asks voters to weigh in on a change to the state constitution: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the years of redistricting the Maine Legislature, congressional districts and county commissioner districts after 2013 from 2023 and every 10th year thereafter to 2021 and every 10th year thereafter?”

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