Update: The voter ID bill is defeated, and the Legislature passes a law to continue providing assistance to some immigrants in need!

The last two weeks in the legislature have brought challenges to two of our most cherished values: the right of all qualified citizens to cast a ballot, and the right to fair treatment for all people, regardless of where they were born.

LD 197 would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. Many Americans – particularly poor people, people of color, transgender Mainers, and the elderly – do not have the necessary identification that these laws require, and face barriers to voting as a result. Many of them cannot afford to pay for the required documents needed to secure a government-issued photo ID or have limited mobility, making it harder for them to secure ID. For a state like Maine, with a significant aging and rural population, voter ID laws would be especially harmful.

We helped organize voting advocates to turn out against this bill because we believe that by making it harder for certain groups to cast a ballot, burdensome voter ID laws undermine the equal protection of the Constitution and the fundamental right to vote. If we really want to protect the integrity of elections in Maine, we should be encouraging more qualified people to vote, not making it harder for them to do so.

Here’s my testimony urging legislators to reject this bill.

Gov. LePage’s proposed budget would deny certain assistance programs, including General Assistance (GA), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Supplement benefits, and State Supplemental Security Income (SSI), to many of Maine’s immigrants. These crucial programs allow new Mainers to survive, and the money goes right back into the Maine economy as folks buy groceries and pay rent.

Many of those who would be affected by the cuts are lawfully seeking asylum in the United States and awaiting permission to work – a process that can take months or even years. In the meantime, they have no source of income. 

We helped organize over 70 immigrants, advocates, and business and faith leaders to testify against the cuts. We also held a press conference that underscored how the change is discriminatory and bad for Maine. We will always fight against this sort of discrimination, because the fundamental protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution apply to all people.

You can find my testimony against these cuts here.