AUGUSTA — The Maine House on Tuesday rejected a bill that would have required voters to present photo identification at their polling places in order to cast a ballot.

Majority Democrats prevailed on a 76-67 vote that split mostly on party lines in rejecting L.D. 121, which sought to make voters provide proof of identity with a photo ID such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification card.

The bill will likely still receive a vote in the Senate, but it appears all but dead for 2017 with the House’s rejection.

Rep. Karl Ward, R-Holden, the bill’s primary sponsor, expressed frustration with Democrats via Facebook following the vote Tuesday. He wrote that the measure would have “prevented virtually all voter fraud in Maine,” and vowed to defeat Democrats at the polls in 2018.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has also suggested, without providing proof, that voter fraud was widespread in Maine, while President Trump has charged that “millions” of unlawful ballots were cast in the 2016 presidential election, also without providing evidence.

Maine civil rights advocates, however, hailed the vote Tuesday, saying it rejects discrimination and protects voters’ constitutional right to polling-place access.

“While President Trump, Gov. LePage and other elected officials have made false statements about voter fraud, proponents of such laws have failed to show that voter fraud is an actual problem, either in Maine or nationwide,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said in a statement.

Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director of the ACLU of Maine, said voter photo identification laws are designed to obstruct voters.

“Voting is the cornerstone of democracy, protected by more constitutional amendments than any other right,” Amarasingham said. “Today’s vote against L.D. 121 recognizes that the best way to protect the integrity of elections is to encourage more qualified people to vote, not to make it harder for them to do so.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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