Making Democracy Work

Photo ID to Vote

Working for Voter Participation in Maine

What's new in the fight for voter participation in Maine.

Opposing Photographic ID to Vote

Voting is the most fundamental expression of citizenship in our democracy. The expansion of the franchise to include all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, and the breaking down of barriers to citizens' voter participation -- from literacy tests to poll taxes -- has been one of the great successes in the evolution of American democracy. Photo ID is a step in the wrong direction.

In order to register, all Maine voters must swear that they meet the conditions for voter eligibility:

  • Resident of the State of Maine
  • Citizen of the United States
  • 18 years old on Election Day

Each voter who registers must verify their identity and their address to the satisfaction of election officials.

LWVME opposes additional measures to require voters to present valid photographic ID each time they vote. Here's why:

It could disenfranchise voters: Anywhere between 5% and 16% of our eligible voters do not have the required ID. Percentages are higher among the elderly, ethnic minorities, and low income voters, and these are the same groups who have traditionally faced barriers at the polls.

It's equivalent to a poll tax: The cost of obtaining a driver's license or state-issued ID in Maine may seem modest, but the expense and complexity of the process present real barriers to voting when one considers the time off from work and the travel to obtain them, especially for the elderly or disabled. This has real consequences.

Voter participation will fall: A GAO study concluded that voter participation fell between 2% and 3% in states implementing photo ID between the presidential election years 2008 and 2012. That could be twenty thousand voters in Maine's next presidential election. Many, many times more eligible voters will be dissuaded from voting by this law than the number of ineligible voters who will be prevented from casting votes.

It will be expensive: Implementation of voter photo ID laws in other states has cost millions of dollars. Although some photo ID laws have passed constitutional muster, these laws are still subject to constitutional challenge if particular groups or individuals are burdened by the law.

Legal challenges: In addition to the cost of offering free identification cards, other states have faced legal challenges if they did not also take other measures.

Presidential Commission on Election Administration

When legislation similar to this bill was debated in the 125th Legislature, Secretary of State Charles E. Summers, Jr. convened the 2012 Elections Commission to review this and other issues. Quoting from their report, "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."

Background

For the last few years, voting rights have been under attack all around the country. But here in Maine we've fought back. A Photo ID bill was narrowly defeated in the 2011-2012 legislature. Secretary of State Charles E. Summers, Jr. convened the 2012 Elections Commission to review this and other issues.

On February 5, 2013, the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine released the report of its findings, and we're excited for a whole host of reasons. The Commission not only rejected voter ID, it also endorsed same-day voter registration and early voting! You can read the full report here.

Eight public hearings were held from August through November and members of the League of Women Voters attended every single one of them. Over and over again, Maine voters testified in opposition to voter ID and in support of same day voter registration and early voting. We worked tirelessly to publicize the hearings in local communities, and you responded.

As exciting as this news is, however, we do not agree with everything in the report, including a recommendation to tighten residency requirements for voting. This could discourage young people who attend college here from voting, and it continues a recent trend of attacks on student voting rights. We will work to forestall these proposals.

But we do want to see true early voting become the law in Maine, and it could happen this legislative session with your help. A constitutional amendment has been proposed that would allow early voting, and the League of Women Voters will be working with coalition partners to make it happen.

Read More

Early Voting Would Help Democracy, Doug Rook's op. ed. in the Times Records, November 17, 2014.

Maine clerks prepare for onslaught of ballots, Associated Press story, October 1, 2014.

Our View: Maine should pass early voting amendment, editorial in the Portland Press Herald, February 22, 2013.

Early Voting in Maine at the Secretary of State's web site contains reports from the 2007 and 2009 pilot programs conducted in Maine.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap's letter to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee introducing the Elections Commission report, February 1, 2013.

Final report of the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine January 28, 2013.

Our View: Panel report should end talk of voter ID in Maine, editorial in the Portland Press Herald, February 11, 2013.

ACLU of Maine, League of Women Voters Applaud Much of New Election Commission Report, joint press release from LWVME and ACLU of Maine, February 5, 2013.

At What Price? The Cost of Voter ID in Maine, a new report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy that analyzes the cost of implementing a voter ID requirement in Maine.

College students: You cannot be denied your vote, op-ed from Shenna Bellows of the ACLU of Maine in the Bangor Daily News, October 15, 2012.

College students should be able to cast local ballots, editorial in the Journal Tribune, October 12, 2012.

Forum: People want expanded voting, not less of it, reporting in the Lewiston Sun Journal from the hearing on October 4, 2012.

Absentee voting is for benefit of voters, not candidates, editorial in the Bangor Daily News, September 27, 2012.

Voters shut out of election hearing, letters to the editor of the Portland Press Herald, September 8, 2012.

Voter ID Wars, Op-Doc by Mo Rocca in the New York Times, September 5, 2012.

Requiring voter IDs is a guise to solve a nonexistent problem, editorial in the Bangor Daily News, September 5, 2012.

GOP-Backed Voter Fraud Laws Aim To Disenfranchise Students, The Daily Beast, September 3, 2012.

Our View: Maine does not need a voter ID requirement, editorial in the Portland Press Herald, August 26, 2012.

Words to live by: Protect the vote, Bill Nemitz in the Portland Press Herald, August 26, 2012.

Voting Rights & Elections at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School.

Voting Rights & Voter Registration at Demos.

League Members Speak to the Commission