Early voting amendment clears Maine Senate

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May 22, 2013

Maine

By Nick Katers

AUGUSTA, Maine:The Maine State Senate approved a constitutional amendment allowing in-person early voting by a 24-11 vote. LD 156 proposed by Representative Michael Shaw (D) recently cleared the Maine House of Representatives 90-50 but fell short of the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment. This legislation allows voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day rather than using absentee ballots. Elections officials can count early votes before Election Day under LD156.[1] The House[2] will vote again soon to determine if LD156 will be sent to voters as a referendum.

The Maine Secretary of State authorized a statewide test of a similar early voting program during municipal elections in 2009. This pilot program was used by 12,970 voters in nine cities according to the Department of the Secretary of State. A 2010 report on the program indicated that 98% of participants wanted early voting as an option in future elections.[3]

The pilot program is among the evidence used by supporters that LD156 would simplify the voting process. “It eliminates long lines at the polls and reduces pressure on election officials,” says Senator John Tuttle (D). Opponents of LD156 like Senator Garrett Mason (R) believe that early voting complicates a functioning system. “Quite frankly, I am not interested in creating an election season,” notes Mason.[1]

Another source of debate over LD156 is the importance of early voting in smaller communities. Rural legislators like Senator Troy Jackson (D) believe that early voting would be used by a broad spectrum of constituents.[1] Representative Kenneth Fredette (R) is concerned that early voting would disproportionately benefit residents of big cities. “It will be the cities who are going to be determining the results of referendums,” argues Fredette.[4]

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