SENATE DEMOCRATS DEFEAT VOTER ID RESTRICTION
AUGUSTA— Senate Democrats led the opposition against a measure that, if passed, would have required a photo identification as a condition of voting on election day. Several Senate Republicans crossed the aisle to join Democrats in a vote of 15 – 19 “ought not to pass”.
“The defeat of voter ID is a victory for Maine voters,” said Senator Justin Alfond who serves as the Assistant Democratic Leader. “Mainers are known for their strong voter participation. Today, we held strong by protecting a long-held belief that voting should be without unnecessary barriers.”
LD 199, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Election Laws by Requiring Photograph Identification for the Purpose of Voting,” as amended required a photo identification as proof of voter identification. If a voter did not present a photo ID then a provisional ballot could have been cast. It also allowed a municipal clerk to vouch for a person’s identify in lieu of a photo ID.
During the floor debate, Democrats led a voracious debate in their opposition to LD 199.
“Republicans talk about the virtues of small government but a proposal like this actually expands government and puts ‘Big Brother’ smack dab in the middle of our life,” said Senator John Patrick of Oxford.
Democrats opposed the measure because it rolled back voters’ rights and voters’ access to the voting booth.
“I’m ashamed that again we’re debating whether or not to make it harder to vote,” said Senator Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick. “There was a time in our history when we had lots of restrictions in order to vote. But as we became more evolved, we learned that we need to take away these barriers and make it easier for our citizens to vote.”
Additionally, Democrats disliked the added expense to the state and municipalities for a “solution to which no problem exists.” To avoid, violations to the Constitution, the Secretary of State would have to issue free photo IDs to anyone seeking an ID. Other states have adopted similar laws. In 2007, Indiana adopted a similar law and it cost $2 million in free IDs and another $10 million in administrative expenses and voter education.
“If you believe freedom in America means you have to provide an ID, I disagree,” said Senator Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth. “If freedom and liberty mean anything, it’s casting your vote in your community.”