Elections panel gives thumbs down to Maine voter ID law

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, February 5, 2013 13:42 EDT
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An independent panel appointed to review Maine’s electoral system has strongly recommended that the state not implement a voter ID law. According to a preview of the report provided to Huffington Post, the five-member committee voted 4 to 1 against such a measure.

“The Commission, by a 4 to 1 vote, finds that the negative aspects of a Voter ID law outweigh its potential benefits and recommends that a Voter ID system not be pursued in Maine,” read the group’s report.

The group was assembled in 2011 by former Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers (R), a supporter of a proposed voter ID law, at the request of Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Veterans’ and Legal Affairs. The report findings will be presented to the state legislature by current Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D) on Wednesday.

The commissioners listed among the positive aspects a voter ID law could have the fact that it would purportedly cut down on voter impersonation. However, the commission noted that “A voter ID law is unnecessary as there is little or no history in Maine of voter impersonation or identification fraud.” Also among the disadvantages of a voter ID law would be an overall slowdown in polling place operations on election days, as well as the fact that disenfranchised voters like the poor, homeless and elderly would be disproportionately negatively impacted by the implementation of such a law.

State Rep. Diane Russell (D), long an opponent of the voter ID law said, “This extensive report puts a real nail in the coffin for Voter ID, demonstrating clearly that any perceived benefit is far outweighed by the consequences it would have for Maine citizens.”

The panel also recommended that the state uphold its same-day voter registration policy, which Republican Gov. Paul LePage and legislators from his party attempted to eliminate earlier this year. Citizens of Maine, however, voted overwhelmingly to leave the policy in place.

“[The commission] believes that the voters have already spoken recently on this matter, deciding that we should keep same day registration in Maine,” the panel wrote. “That being the case, we determined that we should and would not recommend disturbing this decision.”

Voter ID laws across the country were swatted down by judges again and again ahead of the November 2012 elections. The Brennan Institute wrote, one week before the election,that “for the overwhelming majority of those whose rights were most at risk, the ability to vote will not be at issue on November 6th.”

Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster caused a stir in the weeks after the election when he said that vote fraud had caused the state to go Democratic in November.

“In some parts of the state — for example, in some parts of rural Maine,” he said in an interview with WCSH’s Don Carrigan, “there were dozens — dozens of black people who came in and voted election day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anybody that’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.”

Webster declined to name any specific municipalities where the alleged fraud took place. No evidence of fraud has been uncovered in the state.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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