AUGUSTA, Maine — Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth introduced a proposal on Monday that would allow eligible Mainers to register to vote using a secure online portal.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted opportunities to strengthen our elections so that all eligible voters are able to participate fully in the democratic process. By creating a system for Mainers to register to vote and update their registration online, we can simplify the process for both voters and election administrators,” Pierce said in a release. “Often we think of young people registering to vote for the first time, but the truth is that online voter registration will benefit Mainers from all walks of life, from aging Mainers to working parents.”
LD 1126 would implement online voter registration between now and 2023, giving state and local election officials time to adapt and ensure the system is secure, according to Pierce.
Supporters say it would modernize Maine's voter registration process and create more equity by removing traditional barriers to voter registration like time away from work or transportation.
Critics are concerned about the security of the system and ensuring that only eligible voters can register.
Patti Dubois, a representative from the Maine Town and City Clerks' Association said during Monday's public hearing that the group supports the bill, but wants clarification on how voters will give their signatures, something clerks use often.
"It's very important. We use those signatures as a comparison on almost everything we do with voter registration: petition signature verification, absentee receipts, absentee applications, and just to ensure we're looking at the right voter when we're updating a person's name or address, we'll look at the signature to make sure it is the right voter, so it is key to maintain the voter registration system and maintain that level of security," said Dubois.
The proposal has earned support from voting rights advocates and Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who oversees the state’s elections.
“Offering a secure online voter registration portal is an important step in making the voting process more accessible to all Maine citizens,” Bellows said. “An online registration option would eliminate the challenges of accessing a physical voter registration card at the town office, and make it easier for clerks to manage updates to their voter rolls. In this day and age, people expect to be able to conduct business online and we are confident that today’s technology will allow us to implement this new option securely and effectively.”
Monday's 10 a.m. hearing will be streamed live and archived on the Maine Legislature's YouTube account.