Sen. Diamond calls on Gov. LePage to protect Mainers from voter intimidation

Posted: March 18, 2016 | Senator Diamond, Weekly Radio Address

The polling place is the linchpin of our democratic system of government. It’s where citizens make their voices heard, whether it’s on candidate elections, referendums or citizen initiatives. We have to do everything we can to ensure that no one feels intimidated at the polls.

Hi, this is Senator Bill Diamond, from Windham.

When I was Secretary of State, I oversaw Maine’s elections for eight years. I know how important it is for voters to have easy, safe access to the ballot box. If Mainers believe the polls are a place where they will be harassed or intimidated, they won’t show up.

That’s why this week, the Legislature enacted my bill to prevent voter intimidation by creating common sense rules on video recording at the polls. That bill is now on Gov. LePage’s desk, and I’m urging him to sign it.

Last year, I was disturbed by reports of political activists video recording voters at polling places across Southern Maine  as they signed petitions for citizen initiatives. The Secretary of State reported that, in some cases, the activists were putting themselves between voters and petitions, pointing their cameras in voters faces and demanding the voter identify themselves for the camera.

Whether the activists intended to harass voters or not, the effect was the same: Voters felt intimidated because they had exercised their right to support citizen initiatives. But without any laws regarding video recording at the polls, election wardens felt unable to address the situation.

My bill establishes a 15-foot “minimum distance” between video recorders and the people they would record. This rule respects the First Amendment rights of activists while also respecting the right of voters to cast their vote without being harassed or intimidated. Critically, it also empowers our election wardens to maintain order by providing a rule they can enforce.

My bill was supported by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who like me recognizes the need for voters to be able to perform their civic duty uninterrupted. It was also endorsed unanimously by the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, by the House of Representatives, and by the Senate.

That kind of unity is a testament to the importance of passing this law to protect Maine voters. I encourage Gov. LePage to sign this bill into law, so that no voter will be needlessly harassed on Election Day.

I’m Senator Bill Diamond. Thanks for listening.