Legislation supported by Secretary of State Shenna Bellows that would make permanent many of the innovative measures the State put in place for voting during the pandemic passed in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee today by a 5-4 vote, with four members absent.
The bill, LD 1363 “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Elections,” was sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, on behalf of Secretary Bellows.
Secretary Bellows stated, that her Office heard from Maine voters and local election officials that many of the changes enacted in 2020 to protect health, safety, and access to the ballot were beneficial.
The State provided partial reimbursement for installation of ballot drop boxes at municipal offices across the state, both of which assisted voters in safely and confidently participating in the statewide elections in 2020. LD 1363 will put the procedures for using absentee ballot drop boxes into law.
The Secretary of States Office also provided guidance for clerks to make every attempt to cure absentee ballot defects with the voter before rejecting the ballot, to ensure that those unfamiliar with the process would not be unnecessarily denied their right to vote. A cure process is also included in LD 1363.
Additionally, LD 1363 requires the Secretary of States office to continue the use of the online absentee ballot tracker that was implemented in 2020, so that voters can confirm when their ballot is provided to them by their town or city clerk, and when it has been successfully received for processing.
Secretary Bellows supports additional improvements to Maines election processes currently under consideration by the Legislature, such as launching an online voter registration portal, allowing seniors and Mainers with disabilities to apply for ongoing absentee ballot status, and instituting risk-limiting election audits. These efforts would serve to improve convenience for voters and confidence in the States elections processes.
LD 1126 An Act To Update the Voter Registration Process, from Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, a bill to implement online voter registration in Maine by November 2023, passed in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee in April with 8 of 13 committee members voting in favor of the bill.
Additionally, the Governors office expanded processing time for absentee ballots in 2020, allowing clerks a full week to handle the unprecedented influx of absentee ballots and thereby avoiding delays in election results reporting. This provision was passed into law earlier this legislative session.
The four committee members who were absent from the vote have until Monday, May 19 at noon to record their votes.