AUGUSTA — A coalition campaigning to preserve same-day voter registration in Maine said Tuesday that many conservative leaders have done just what they support abolishing.

Voting records reveal that Gov. Paul LePage, at least two state senators and eight state representatives have in the past registered to vote on Election Day or during the two business days preceding it. A new law that they all support would ban voter registration within two business days of an election.

The law, passed with Republican support, is now the subject of a people’s veto referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot, led by Protect Maine Votes.

Cited in a press release issued by the coalition Tuesday were Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry; Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center; former Republican gubernatorial candidate Peter Cianchette; and former Republican congressional candidate Dean Scontras.

LePage registered to vote in Waterville on the day before Election Day in 1982.

“One of the primary arguments made for the repeal of same-day registration is that people who register late don’t care, are lazy or are ill-informed,” David Farmer, communications director for Protect Maine Votes, said in the release. “But the fact is, many of the state’s most influential leaders … have registered to vote close to Election Day. The day and time you register is not an indicator of your interest in the election.”

Dutson said he has acknowledged publicly that he has registered multiple times on the day of an election, but that doesn’t mean Maine should continue allowing it.

“I believe same-day voter registration is a great thing, convenient, and it’s a goal that we should work toward,” he said. “Right now it creates too much of a liability in a system that doesn’t have enough structure to keep it safe” from voter fraud.

Other Republicans noted that they were following the law and did nothing wrong.

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, also was listed in the release. “I understand they are trying to accuse the governor and staff of being hypocritical. … However, the fact is all of these people, including myself, are law-abiding citizens and we will continue to be with the new law in place,” Bennett said.

Dutson disputed Farmer’s assertion that a primary argument for repealing same-day registration is that people who register late are lazy or ill-informed.

“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.”

According to the coalition’s release, voting records show that these lawmakers have registered on Election Day or the two days leading up to it: 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; Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro; and Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough.

Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, filled out and signed his registration card in October 2003, but it wasn’t received by the town clerk until the day before Election Day.

Mason said he first registered on Aug. 1, 2003, but did not fill out his date of birth. Eventually, the town clerk contacted Mason and told him that his card was incomplete.

“I don’t know if it was mailed to me, I don’t know if I went into the office and filled it out there, but they found the fact that my date of birth wasn’t filled out and they had me fill out another card,” he said. “I did that on Oct. 3, which is well before Election Day.”

Mason said it apparently took two months for the clerk to catch the error on his card.

“I think the important part is that clerks do need some time to make sure that all these are right,” he said.

Dutson said the Maine Heritage Policy Center plans to participate in the campaign against the people’s veto of the law eliminating same-day registration, which cannot take effect while the referendum is pending.

He said his group will make public, likely next week, a report that illustrates the weakness of Maine’s Central Voter Registration system.

Farmer said Tuesday’s release proves that same-day registration has helped make it easier for many Mainers to vote.

“There are few among us – even among the opponents of same-day registration – who don’t know someone or have a family member who has used it,” he said.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: rmetzler@mainetoday.com