AUGUSTA – It’s a work in progress to get automatic voter registration up and running.
On Wednesday, Maine’s Secretary of State’s Office was due to give an update on its implementation, after it was passed into law last year.
“Automatic voter registration is really about increasing civic participation in our democracy…and it’s also about eliminating administrative redundancy and paperwork,” said Sen. Justin Chenette (D – Saco), one of the co-sponsors of the original bill.
The new system would register Mainers automatically while doing business with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, unless they opt out. Lawmakers are also looking to have automatic voter registration with other state agencies, like when applying for a hunting or fishing license.
“Obviously we all want to get as many people in the state registered to vote,” said Rep. Scott Strom, (R – Pittsfield). “But at the same time…we don’t want people who shouldn’t be voting, non citizens being able to vote.”
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said voter registration will be more secure.
“We actually have under the Real ID implementation proof of citizenship required,” he said.
Secretary Dunlap also said this will make it easier to keep voter files up to date and accessible. That helps with things like verifying signatures for citizen initiative petitions, something the the Secretary of State is doing right now regarding the CMP transmission line.
“We actually scrutinize the signatures and match them up against voter registration cards, that was always something of a barrier…with the digital signature people, you know, they sign the touch pad, that’s something we will also have moved over,” said Secretary Dunlap.
The law said automatic voter registration would take effect in 2022 but it could be earlier. According to Secretary Dunlap, automatic voter registration could be up and running as soon as November.