AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Municipal Association, which represents the interests of cities and towns across the state, has endorsed a “yes” vote on Question 1 in November.
Question 1 reads: 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?
The MMA’s executive committee met recently with proponents and opponents of the people’s veto and then voted to endorse a yes vote, affirming MMA’s position during the legislative process that led to the new state law.
LD 1376, the bill that eliminated same-day registration and also moved back the deadline for filing absentee ballots, was championed by Republican lawmakers and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.
“While municipal officials recognize that wardens and clerks are burdened by Election Day responsibilities, and appreciate a legislative interest in reducing that burden, they believe the elimination of same-day voter registration will frustrate and be generally unhelpful for some voters and otherwise fails to get at the heart of the problem,” the MMA wrote in its monthly publication, “Maine Townsman.”
Mark Gray, manager of the Yes on 1 campaign, said the MMA’s support, “is critical because it provides the perspective of the people who understand local election administration the best — municipal leaders.”
Supporters of same-day registration say the practice has worked since it became law 38 years ago and has contributed to high voter turnout year after year. Critics say Election Day registration is convenient but creates undo burden on local election officials and increases the potential for voter fraud.
Recently, the Portland-based Maine Heritage Policy Center has taken responsibility for advocating a “no” vote on Question 1.
Lance Dutson, CEO of the conservative-leaning policy center, said he doesn’t think MMA’s endorsement means a great deal. He recently met with several MMA members during the group’s annual convention and said many of them expressed support for LD 1376.
Although MMA represents cities and towns, there is a separate statewide group that represents municipal clerks. The Maine Town and City Clerk’s Association supported LD 1376 during the legislative process this spring.
Bangor City Clerk Patti Dubois, the past president of the clerk’s association, said the group’s support has more to do with the changes in absentee voting and less to do with eliminating same-day voter registration.
“Every town is affected by same-day voter registration differently, but that wasn’t a top concern for clerks,” she said.
Dubois said the clerk’s association recently discussed whether to take a position on Question 1 but decided not to make an endorsement.