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Proposed New Requirements to Vote in Maine Meet Resistance at Public Hearing

Samantha Fields
Maine Public/file
The polling place sign outside Reiche School in Portland's West End on Election Day 2012..

AUGUSTA, Maine - A wide range of interest groups opposing a pair of bills that implement new residency and photo identification requirements to vote told lawmakers Wednesday that the proposals will make it harder for many people to vote.

The bills have been dubbed anti-fraud measures by supporters, including Rep. Brad Farrin, a Republican from Norridgewock.

Farrin is the lead sponsor of a bill that would require Mainers to show a photo ID before voting. "Just think in your daily life how many times you are asked for your ID, at the bank, the convenience store, at the airport and the list goes on. If we need ID for these day-to-day activities what can be the harm in protecting the integrity of the voting box?"

Opponents of Farrin's bill say it creates barriers for some voters, and seeks to prevent in-person voter impersonation, which studies have shown to be virtually non-existent.

Sen. Shenna Bellows, a Democrat from Manchester, told lawmakers that the proposals will disenfranchise certain voters by making it difficult to cast a ballot.

Bellows noted that national and local investigations have turned up few instances of in-person voter impersonation. "But what does happen is voter suppression and there is a lot of data about that," she said.

Bellows testified against Farrin's bill, as well as another one that would require college students to show a photo ID, tax document or motor vehicle registration proving that they live where they want to vote.

The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will continue to review the bill before referring it to the full Legislature.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.