By Ramona du Houx
On June 20,2019 Governor Janet Mills signed a bill to create an Automatic Voter Registration system in Maine. LD 1463, “An Act To Create An Automatic Voter Registration System,” creates a process that would automatically register eligible Mainers to vote when they interact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or another approved state agency where they already provide proof of eligibility for voter registration.
“The foundation of America is built on every eligible citizen’s ability to participate in our democracy, and that starts with making the right to exercise our vote as easy and accessible as possible,” said Speaker Sara Gideon, sponser of the legislation. “We know that greater participation in our democracy will make our government more responsible and make elected officials more representative of the people we serve. Making that participation easier while improving the integrity and security of our elections is something we should all be able to support.
Maine is now the 19th state to adopt an Automatic Voter Registration system. Oregon became the first in 2015, and that effort is widely considered a success. Since then, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws.
LD 1463 will allow eligible Mainers to be registered to vote when they interact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or another approved state agency where they provide proof of eligibility for voter registration—including name, address, citizenship status, and signature. For an eligible voter, this information would be automatically added to the Central Voter Registration file. Election officials will then make available an option for the voter to enroll with a party or to decline registration altogether. Outdated information, e.g. old addresses, of registered voters will also be automatically updated.
Voters can still register with a voter registration card at their town hall if they prefer, and registration would not become mandatory. If an eligible Mainer does not wish to register and have their information on the voter rolls, they will be provided the opportunity to decline registration.