Despite years of failed attempts, Gov. Paul LePage said he will forward legislation this year to require Mainers to show photographic identification when they vote.
LePage said in his weekly radio address that on the heels of voter ID laws being implemented recently in West Virginia and Iowa, the time is right for more states to adopt the practice.
“It’s not unreasonable to ask for voters for an ID as a simple way to safeguard the most sacred right we have in our democracy,” said LePage.
Maine has no history of significant voter fraud, despite past probes into the topic. In 2012, then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a Republican, appointed a commission that found virtually no evidence of voter fraud in Maine. The commission voted 4-1 against recommending the implementation of an Election Day voter ID requirement.
LePage’s announcement came two days after Republican President Donald Trump disbanded a voter fraud commission he created after making unproven allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Trump tweeted about the issue Thursday and blamed Democratic-controlled states for the commission’s failure.
“They fought hard that the commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally,” tweeted the president. “System is rigged, most go to voter ID.”
Approximately 33 states have some form of voter ID law or are scheduled to implement one, according to Ballotpedia.
Voter ID is becoming a deja vu issue at the State House. According to data from the Legislative Law and Reference Library, voter ID bills have been attempted at least 10 times since 1995, including a Republican-led attempt that failed in 2017.
Republicans have framed the issue as a way to guard the voting process against as-yet-undetected fraud and mistakes, Democrats argue that it is an attempt to suppress voter turnout and swing close elections.
LePage referred to fresh data from New Hampshire, which showed that roughly 6,000 people registered to vote using out-of-state licenses. Most of those were in college towns. But that data did not specifically identify any fraudulent votes, and LePage acknowledged in the radio address that it is not illegal for out-of-state college students to vote in the communities where they attend school.
“Many races have been decided by just a few votes, so tolerating any kind of voter fraud could reverse the outcome of an election,” said LePage.
Prior to the 2016 election, LePage issued a news release informing Maine college students from other states that if they registered to vote, state government would check on them later to make sure they transferred their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations to Maine, among other issues. No crackdown like that ever took place, though LePage has claimed since then that Maine’s voting system is “illegitimate.”
House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, called the proposal an “assault on voting rights.”
“I can assure you it’s going nowhere in this Legislature,” she said in a prepared statement.
Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap was a member of Trump’s voter fraud commission, but sued other members after being denied access to their communications. He has long opposed Election Day voter ID mandates because, he said Friday, no evidence of fraud exists.
“We don’t have a demonstrated need for it,” Dunlap said. “I imagine this proposal from the governor is only because of Trump tweeting about it.”
LePage’s bill has not yet become public. The governor can introduce new bills any time the Legislature is in session.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.