Sen. Beebe-Center introduces bill to make local election information more available online
AUGUSTA — On Thursday, March 2, Sen. Pinny Beebe-Center, D-Rockland, introduced LD 577, “An Act to Increase Availability of Election Information on Local Government Websites.” The bill was the subject of a public hearing before the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government.
“Representing a district of mostly small towns, I am well aware of the workload for town clerks and the lack of resources for digital infrastructure in many Maine municipalities,” said Sen. Beebe-Center. “Having the Secretary of State’s Office implement a system where town clerks could submit official local election information to be posted on the Secretary of State’s website would solve the issue of some towns not having the existing infrastructure or technical capacity to post official local election information online themselves. This is a matter of equity: No Maine voters should be penalized in their efforts toward civic engagement just because they live in a small town with limited resources.”
LD 577 aims to increase the availability of official online information about local elections for all Maine voters, regardless of where they live. This would entail the Secretary of State’s Office assisting town offices with creating web pages and uploading election information to those pages.
The Secretary of State’s office testified in favor of the bill, acknowledging the serious undertaking of the bill, but realizing its importance as well.
“Expanding our website to include information about local elections for Maine s 500 municipalities would be a significant undertaking,” said Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. “We know that there are about 176 municipalities who do not even have a website. The timing and nature of local elections depend on the municipality. Some municipalities use the town meeting format. Others may have multiple local races at times that different from state and federal elections. Depending upon the municipality s organization, they could have a city council, select board or board of assessors. Thus, we believe this is a worthwhile goal over the long term, and we think that the Division of Elections is the best entity to work collaboratively with municipalities to make it possible for voters to have what’s most convenient to them a one-stop shop for accurate, up-to-date information about their state and local elections. We are willing to take on this challenge afforded sufficient resources and time to make it happen.”
The League of Women Voters of Maine also testified in favor of the bill, acknowledging its importance especially for small towns.
“We understand that municipalities, especially smaller towns, do not always have the resources to maintain an up-to-date official website where clerks can easily post local election information,” said Lane Sturtevant from the League of Women Voters of Maine. “That is why we support having the Secretary of State’s office provide a way for municipalities to submit local election information to be centrally posted through the Secretary of State’s website. Such an option would be a significant public service; it would solve the problem for voters without overburdening town clerks.”
LD 577 awaits further action in committee.