AUGUSTA — A coalition group hoping to restore Election Day voter registration says many of top conservative officials employed the very practice they support abolishing.
Voting records reveal Gov. Paul LePage, at least two state senators and seven state representatives have at one time registered to vote on Election Day or during the two business days preceding it. That practice is banned under the new law they all supported.
“We’re asking these members to reconsider the elimination of same-day registration and the move of the registration deadline,” said David Farmer, communications director for Protect Maine Votes, in a statement.
Others cited in a press release issued by the coalition group on Tuesday were Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Peter Cianchette and former Republican congressional candidate Dean Scontras.
“Same-day voter registration has worked,” Farmer said. “We should make sure it’s available for everyone.”
Dutson said he’s already admitted publicly that he’s used Election Day registration, but that does not mean Maine should continue the practice at this time.
“I believe same-day voter registration is a great thing, convenient and it’s a goal that we should work toward,” he said in an interview. “Right now it creates too much of a liability in a system that doesn’t have enough structure to keep it safe.”
Farmer’s allegation that one of the main arguments for repealing Election Day registration has been that people who register late are lazy or ill-informed is a lie, Dutson said.
“The problem with what Mr. Farmer is saying is that he’s making things up in order to drive a fear to be able to repeal this law for no other reason than to cause trouble for Republican leadership,” Dutson said. “He’s driving an absolute fear, it’s ridiculous.”
Farmer cited an opinion column written by Republican consultant Matt Gagnon in the Bangor Daily News as proof.
“The only people I want anywhere near a ballot box are those who have demonstrated they are actually invested enough in the process that they want to vote,” Gagnon wrote in the column published on August 4.”That is the flaw with same-day voter registration: most of the people it serves are unengaged in the process.“
According to the release, voting records show the following lawmakers registered on Election Day or the two days leading up to it: Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello, R-Poland, Rep. Bernard Ayotte, R-Caswell, Rep. Eleanor Espling, R-New Gloucester, Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, Rep. David Johnson, R-Eddington Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, Rep. David Richardson, R-Carmel and Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough.
Farmer said lawmakers in Augusta for a special session today could spare a referendum campaign by restoring the Election Day registration provision.
This post has been updated from the original story.