BY RAMONA DU HOUX

September 22, 2011

“Voting is a one of our most cherished constitutional rights, fundamental to our democracy,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

Same-day voter registration provides critical safeguards to assure the integrity of Maine’s elections and to protect the right of every eligible voter to cast his or her ballot.

In August, Maine’s Central Voter Registration database suffered a potential security breach as a result of malicious computer software that infected a town clerk’s office in Millinocket.

The breach put at risk the personal information of voters around Maine. But the risk extends beyond stolen information. A breach of the system could also have corrupted data in the system, inadvertently erasing the registration of Maine voters.

“Imagine showing up on Election Day thinking that you’re registered and all of your information has been erased by some unknown computer error – or worse yet some malicious act,” said Barbara McDade, the president of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “Same-day voter registration makes sure that eligible voters won’t have their vote denied by a mistake or the acts of a criminal.”

While Maine’s elections are well-run and efficient and town clerks have demonstrated their professionalism and proficiency, errors can still occur that put Maine voters at risk.

Randy Spencer moved from Grand Lake Stream, a small town in Washington County, to Holden in 2006. He registered to vote at the same time he registered his automobile. Come Election Day, Spencer showed up at the polls to vote. For some reason his name did not appear on the rolls.

Spencer used same-day registration and voted.

The following election, Spencer again showed up at his polling place to vote. Again, his name was not listed among registered voters. And again he used same-day registration to vote.

“Without same-day registration, I would have missed two consecutive elections,” Spencer said. “Mistakes happen, but we shouldn’t allow them to disrupt a person’s fundamental right to vote.”

Spencer’s case is not unique. The same thing has happened to other Mainers as well.

In 2008, more than 50,000 Mainers registered to vote on Election Day. In 2010, another 20,000 used same-day registration.

“Same-day voter registration provides an important safety system to protect the integrity of Maine’s elections,” said McDade said. “Without it, thousands of Mainers could be put at risk and the results of our elections called into question.”

During testimony before the Legislature, the Maine Town and City Clerk’s Association testified against the repeal of same-day voter registration.

A Yes vote on Question 1 in November will restore same-day registration.