AUGUSTA — Secretary of State Charlie Summers released the wording Wednesday for a people’s veto ballot question, marking the unofficial start of a campaign to repeal a law passed last month to end same-day voter registration in Maine.

A coalition of groups led by the League of Women Voters of Maine wants to gather at least 57,277 signatures to get a question before voters in November or next June. The bill to end same-day voter registration was supported by most Republicans in the Legislature.

The question released by Summers reads:

“Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Law of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?”

David Farmer, a spokesman for the coalition that wants to overturn the law, said there have been few documented problems in the 38 years that Mainers have been allowed to register and vote on the same day.

“The key point is that we shouldn’t erect unnecessary barriers to voting,” he said. “Everybody who’s eligible to vote should be able to vote.”

Supporters of the new law say Maine is open to fraud with same-day voter registration. The new law requires people to register by the Thursday before an election, to ease the burden on city and town clerks and give them time to verify information, said Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party.

“For us, it’s about dealing with the fraud issue,” he said. “It’s not acceptable to most people that students signed up here and voted, but still maintained out-of-state residency.”

The coalition that wants to repeal the law is likely to launch its signature-gathering effort Friday, Farmer said. The group would like to get the signatures by Aug. 8 so the question can appear on the November ballot, but it may decide to wait, depending on the “pace of signature collection,” Farmer said.

If it misses the Aug. 8 deadline, the coalition will have until Sept. 27 to gather enough voters’ signatures to get a question on the June ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:
scover@mainetoday.com