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Maine weighs online voter registration

Maine voters would be able to register online under a new proposal, which has the backing of the state’s top election official.

The bill, filed by state Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, would require the Secretary of State’s office to create a “publicly accessible” online voter registration system by January 1, 2023.

Testifying before the Legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, Pierce said the measure would boost voter participation and improve the democratic process.

“The more people participate in our democracy the stronger our representation will be,” she told committee members. “If we want to pass legislation that truly meets the needs of Maine people we need to make the voter registration process easier for folks who are eligible.”

Pierce said her proposal includes cybersecurity safeguards to prevent voter registration fraud. To verify their identity, voters would be required to submit a Maine driver’s license, ID card or the last 4 digits of their social security number to register. The signature on record with their driver’s license or state ID would be used as their voter registration signature.

The bill, LD116 would also require the Secretary of State’s office to “study the feasibility” of allowing third-party groups to collect and submit electronic voter registration applications to the registry.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat and former state senator who oversees the state’s elections, also backs the proposal.

“Americans today are accustomed to conducting nearly all of their business online. Banking, shopping, medical appointments, vehicle registrations or license renewal even vehicle purchases can be conducted securely online,” she told the committee. “It is a reasonable expectation that voters be able to register to vote online as well.”

Mainers would still be allowed to register to vote in person at city and town clerks’ offices, under Pierce’s proposal, which has several co-signers including House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford.

Currently, 40 states and D.C. offer online registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states are considering plans to authorize online registration.

Anna Kellar, executive director of the Maine chapter of the League of Women Voters, pointed out that Maine has been a trailblazer in election reforms and was the first state to authorize same day voter registration, nearly 50 years ago.

“We’re proud that Maine was a leader in this reform,” she told the panel. “But fast forward, time changes, technology changes, voters adapt, and our election systems must keep pace.”

This article was originally posted on Maine weighs online voter registration

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