AUGUSTA — A group from Michigan donated $250,000 this fall to the unsuccessful campaign to uphold a new Maine law ending same-day voter registration.

The American Justice Partnership of Lansing, Mich., made two donations totaling $250,000 to the “No on 1” campaign in the weeks before the vote, campaign finance reports show.

The money wasn’t enough to swing the election. On Nov. 8, voters approved Question 1, a people’s veto of the law passed by the Legislature in June to end Maine’s 38-year-old policy of allowing voters to register and vote on the same day.

The vote was 60 percent to 40 percent in support of the veto.

The American Justice Partnership and other donors gave a total of $346,989 to uphold the law, less than half of what supporters spent to get it overturned.

The “Yes” campaign spent $873,435, including $318,000 donated by the hedge fund billionaire S. Donald Sussman, husband of Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine.

In previous years, Sussman has supported causes including gay marriage, a tax reform package passed by Democrats, and a new tax on beer, wine and soda to provide funding for Dirigo Health. All of those initiatives were defeated.

Dan Pero, president of the American Justice Partnership, said his group donated to the Maine campaign because it believes it’s important to protect elections from fraud. He said that during a recent election in Michigan, questions were raised about possible fraud among college students.

“It was an Election Day free-for-all to give opportunity to students to vote in two places,” he said. “There wasn’t really a safeguard.”

Before the vote Nov. 8, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers investigated reports of voter fraud by college students, but found none among the more than 200 cases he examined.

Nevertheless, Summers advocated for the law to end same-day registration, saying that clerks in many towns lack adequate resources to verify new voters on Election Day.

The campaign finance reports, which were due at midnight Tuesday, also detailed final numbers for the two gambling questions on the Nov. 8 ballot, both of which were defeated.

Supporters of Question 2, which would have allowed new slot machine parlors in Biddeford and Washington County, spent $3.7 million, the reports show. Except for about $50,000, all of the money came from Ocean Properties Ltd., the developer that wanted to build the project in Biddeford.

The question failed 55 percent to 45 percent, with groups that opposed it spending a total of $1.3 million. The opposition was funded almost entirely by the state’s one operating racino, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, and its parent company, Penn National Gaming, and by Black Bear Funding, supporters of the casino that is being built in Oxford County.

Supporters of Question 3, which would have allowed a casino in downtown Lewiston, spent $438,000. That question failed 63 percent to 37 percent, with the same opposition groups spending an additional $1.3 million.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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