Sen. Carney introduces bill to strengthen absentee voting by mail

Posted: February 07, 2023 | Senator Carney

AUGUSTA — On Monday, Feb. 6, Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, introduced LD 26, “An Act to Provide Postage Prepaid Return Envelopes to Voters Who Send Absentee Ballots by Mail,” before the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. LD 26 would ensure that voters do not have to pay for postage when they mail their absentee ballots back to municipal clerks.

“LD 26 aims to remove barriers that can make it challenging to return a ballot by mail,” said Sen. Carney. “Some Mainers choose to vote by mail because a medical condition prevents them from driving. Maybe the town hall or a drop box is located a significant distance from home and some working Mainers don’t have the time or gas money to make the trip. It’s their best option. The cost of postage, the extra trip to a post office or the lack of a post office in a community should not get in the way of Mainers exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

Some states already require prepaid return envelopes for absentee voting by mail. Washington requires a vote by mail ballot be sent out to all voters in all elections. Idaho allows a board of county commissioners to designate a precinct within a county that had no more than 140 registered voters at the last election as a mail ballot precinct; all mail-in ballots must have postage prepaid envelopes. Massachusetts requires that both an application to vote by absentee ballot and the returned mail-in absentee ballot must include prepaid postage for the return envelopes.

“LD 26 seeks to make the option to mail back your absentee ballot a little more convenient for voters who choose this option by having the state foot the bill for postage, rather than the voter,” Secretary of State Shenna Bellows wrote in her testimony. “For voters, this change could make it more convenient and more likely they will return their absentee ballot, especially once ongoing absentee ballots become available to seniors and voters with disabilities later this year.”

Maine has one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation. In the 2022 general election, 75 percent of registered Maine voters cast a ballot, while 61.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots nationwide. Maine ranked second in the nation for the percent of voting-eligible people that voted in the 2022 general election.

LD 26 now faces further action in committee.