Maine Secretary of State, voting rights advocates back proposal to modernize process
AUGUSTA – Rep. Teresa S. Pierce, D-Falmouth, introduced a measure that would allow eligible Mainers to register to vote using a secure online portal during a public hearing before a legislative committee on April 5. Maine is one out of 10 states that does not offer online voter registration.
“I am grateful to everyone who voiced their support for this bill during today’s public hearing,” said Rep. Pierce. “So many members of our communities would benefit from this, from aging Mainers to working parents to service members. To strengthen our democracy, we need to look at ways to improve voting access, not limit it.”
LD 1126 would implement online voter registration between now and 2023, giving the Secretary of State and local election officials time to adapt and ensure the system is secure. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who oversees elections in the state, spoke in support of the measure.
“Offering a secure online voter registration portal is an important step in making the voting process more accessible to all Maine citizens,” said Sec. Bellows. “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.”
Since 2002, 40 states and D.C. have successfully implemented online voter registration. Under Pierce’s proposal, Mainers would still have the option to use paper forms as an alternative to registering or changing their registration online.
Online voter registration systems provide additional security when compared to paper forms. While paper forms can be lost or damaged, online voter registration uses encrypted electronic records to protect data and allow elections officials to monitor submissions for unusual activity or potential fraud. These records are also more accurate, because the system ensures applications are legible and complete.
Compared to paper forms, online voter registration is more efficient and cost effective. Under the current system, local elections officials must manually enter the data from voter registration forms, wasting time and adding unnecessary costs for towns and cities.
Pierce is serving her fourth term in the Maine House, representing House District 44, part of Falmouth. She is House chair of the budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.