LD 1690 would enable all eligible voters to sign up for ongoing absentee voting
[Augusta, ME] — Earlier today Mainers for Modern Elections, advocates, and Maine voters testified in support of a bill to expand ongoing absentee voting to all eligible voters. The Legislature previously passed a bill creating ongoing absentee voting for people 65 and older or with disabilities. This measure sponsored by Senator Mattie Daughtery would expand the program to all eligible voters in Maine, regardless of age or disability status.
Maine has a long, proud tradition of making sure every eligible voter can cast a ballot if they wish, and in the manner that works best for them. As a result, Maine has some of the highest voter turnout in the country and absentee voting is a popular option with voters. Two-thirds of those voting absentee in 2018 had also voted absentee in 2016. With ongoing absentee voting, eligible voters would sign up once and be mailed a ballot for each subsequent election rather than completing the same form each year and requiring town clerks to process repeated requests from the same voters. Voters remain enrolled as long as they are an active voter and can request to be removed at any time.
Excerpts from testimony in support of ongoing absentee voting:
Alysia Melnick, representative of Mainers for Modern Elections
Ongoing absentee voting is a policy that actively promotes voter participation. It allows voters who know they want to vote absentee to simply request once that they receive absentee ballots for future elections. Ongoing absentee voting is safe, secure, and convenient for voters.
Will Hayward, Advocacy Program Coordinator, League of Women Voters of Maine
Ongoing absentee voting is a forward-thinking election policy that improves access and increases turnout. Participants don't need to fill out an application every time, and receiving the ballot can be a helpful reminder to the voter of an upcoming election. Across the state, we uniformly see drastically lower turnout in elections that do not coincide with a statewide election. With ongoing absentee voting, the voters who have requested to receive ballots automatically will be invited to participate in those elections by receiving a ballot in the mail; this will encourage increased participation in these elections.
Beth Ahearn, Director of Government Affairs, Maine Conservation Voters
Expanding ongoing absentee voting is essential to ensuring that all Mainers have access to the ballot box and can make their voices heard in our great democracy. The legislature recently passed a law creating ongoing absentee voting in Maine – but only for people who are 65 or older or have a disability. All eligible voters should have the option to enroll in ongoing absentee voting.
Sarah Woodbury, Director of Advocacy, Defend Our Health
Having the ability to mail in a ballot increases voter turnout in both presidential and off-year election cycles. Ongoing absentee also increases the likelihood that an individual will participate in the next election cycle. All of this is good for the health of our democracy.
Barbara Smith Warner, Executive Director, National Vote at Home Institute
The benefit of ongoing absentee for all voters is having decided to “vote at home,” they do not need to remember to reapply for a mailed-out ballot for every election or every year. They get their ballot delivered to them for every subsequent election
automatically unless they move or change their mind. This provides voters not only with convenience but also with a small “d” democratic nudge every election. The arrival of their ballot reminds voters that there is an election a few weeks out and encourages them to pay attention and participate. This is particularly important in local elections, special elections, and primaries, where voter turnout is often a factor of 2x-4x lower than in a general election.
Pamela Vose, resident of Union, Maine
As a committed voter, I feel that it is important for every eligible voter to participate in the voting process. Throughout different stages of my life I have made every effort to vote in every election and I considered it my civic duty. I feel strongly that anything that can be done to make it easier for voters to participate in our democracy should be done. I urge you to vote Ought to Pass on this bill.
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will hold a work session and vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
Mainers for Modern Elections is a coalition committed to ensuring that our right to vote safely transcends politics and partisanship. The coalition advocates for safe, secure, modern elections and is committed to securing equitable access to the ballot for every eligible Maine voter. Members include AARP Maine, the ACLU of Maine, League of Women Voters of Maine, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, Maine Conservation Voters, Represent US, Center for Secure and Modern Election, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Equal Justice, Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine People’s Alliance, Defend Our Health, Maine Service Employees Association, Maine Education Association, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.