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Press release/statement

Demos Statement on Maine Election Day Registration Repeal


June 16, 2011


Anna Pycior, [email protected], (914) 330-1103

Demos Statement on Maine Election Day Registration Repeal

Steven Carbó, Senior Program Director in the Democracy Program at the non-partisan policy organization Demos issued the following statement today in response to Maine repeal of Election Day Registration:

"It's been a tough year for voters across the country. From the Northeast to the Southwest, conservative policymakers have mobilized to enact one voting restriction after another. Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have all passed strict voter ID or proof of citizenship legislation. Florida shortened its early voting period and other states hope to do the same before the current legislative sessions end.

But we hit a new low last week when the historically moderate state of Maine joined those ranks by passing legislation (LD 1376) that repeals Election Day Registration.  No veto is expected from Governor Paul LePage. So the state that lead the nation in first offering EDR in 1973 now reverts to a 21-day voter registration deadline before elections. Those few voters who can take time away from work and family can register in-person at elections offices up until 3 days before elections.

We can expect a drop-off in voter turnout. Maine ranked 21st among the 50 states in voter turnout in 1972, before the EDR was adopted. Since then, it has ranked among the top states in voter participation. Maine was tied with Minnesota for the highest voting rate in the 2010 general election, with almost 15 percent more eligible voters casting a ballot than the national average. It ranked among the top five turnout states in the previous three national elections.

Generations of state residents have come to expect that voter registration will be available on Election Day. Indeed, almost 18,000 used EDR to register and cast a ballot on Election Day in the 2010 general election. Nearly 60,000 registered at the polls to vote in the 2008 presidential election. Imagine the shock and disappointment in 2012 when voters across the state learn that after 39 years they can no longer register and vote on Election Day.

How is it that Maine could do away with a voting innovation that it itself pioneered and has become a matter-of-fact feature of state elections for generations? Neither the bill sponsors nor the newly appointed Secretary of State could point to any significant incident that justified the repeal of Election Day Registration. And you can't blame the elections clerks. In fact, the Maine Town and Clerks Association, which supported LD 1376's limitations on in-person absentee balloting, called for an amendment to preserve Election Day Registration. Those clerks will now have the unhappy task of informing expectant voters that they can no longer register and vote on Election Day. Maine can also expect to see a spike in provisional balloting. Individuals who registered to vote on time but whose names never made it on the voter rolls will no longer have the option of registering anew at the polls and voting a regular ballot.

Sadly, Maine's repeal of Election Day Registration is further evidence of a lost bipartisan consensus. Democrats and Republicans had for years supported innovations like EDR that encouraged voter participation. In fact, it was a Republican-controlled legislature that enacted Election Day Registration in 1973.

Common ground between the two major parties has given way to a constant turf war, where every public policy is assessed according to its perceive ability to pick up or lose votes for one side or the other in the next election. The impact on the voters barely registers. A sad day indeed..."