Changes Needed to Ensure All Eligible Mainers Can Safely Vote During Pandemic

Augusta – Over 2,300 Mainers today called on Gov. Mills to make critical changes to ensure all eligible voters can safely participate in the July primary elections. The petition, delivered today, thanked the governor for her leadership on voting rights and said more action is needed to ensure a successful primary. Specifically, the petition asks the governor to issue an executive order to commit to the following:

  • Providing online options to assist voter registration. It is vitally important that those eligible to register are able to do so without leaving home. Technical changes should be made so that access to a scanner, printer, and postage is not a barrier to becoming a voter.
  • Mailing absentee ballots to every registered voter. To maximize the number of participating voters in the July primary, every registered voter should be mailed a ballot in order to be able to safely vote at home.
  • Preserving a safe in-person voting option. An in-person voting option is vital for ensuring that those who are unable to vote by mail are not disenfranchised and that same-day voter registration can still be offered. With proper planning, it will be possible to offer in-person voting that complies with health and safety guidelines and allows Mainers to safely cast their ballots.
  • Including paid postage for all returnable voter mailings. For this election, eligible voters need to be offered an option to register to vote and cast a ballot without leaving home. Lack of stamps should not prevent this. Committing to providing paid postage will make it easier for voters to truly vote from home.

The signatures were collected by a coalition of organizations committed to upholding voting rights in Maine. The petition reflects similar requests made by the coalition to Gov. Mills and Secretary of State Dunlap. While both Gov. Mills and Secretary Dunlap have stated they are committed to holding safe elections including in-person voting, they have not taken further public measures to ensure the elections are as accessible as possible.

The following quotes can be attributed as noted:

Alison Beyea, Executive Director, ACLU of Maine: “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in countless ways, but we cannot allow it to threaten our democracy. These are extraordinary times, and we cannot rely on business as usual when it comes to our elections. Mainers agree that officials must take further steps to ensure every eligible voter can vote in July.”

Anna Kellar, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of Maine: “No one should have to risk their health in order to cast their vote. If we make it easy for eligible voters to cast an absentee ballot, we can reduce the pressure on polling places, and secure the safety of voters and election workers. Governor Mills should take proactive steps to get postage-paid absentee ballots to all Maine voters who want them.”

Cynthia Phinney, President, Maine AFL-CIO: “The labor movement has always stood for democracy in the workplace and in society at large. The right to vote is fundamental. In the midst of this crisis, we need to be sure the system supports all voters and poll workers to participate in our democracy as easily, safely and securely as possible. That’s why we support these sensible voting reforms.”

Beth Ahearn, Maine Conservation Alliance: “Preserving public health is of the utmost importance right now. But this goes hand-in-hand with making plans to ensure Maine’s July primary takes place in a safe, secure manner, and allows every eligible Maine voter’s voice to be heard at the ballot box. Through this petition, Maine people are sending a clear message that they are counting on Gov. Mills to make adjustments to our voting system to ensure we can all safely cast our ballots.”

Robyn Merrill, Maine Equal Justice: “Every Mainer should have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. Vote-by-mail is important but it isn’t possible for everyone. People who lack a mailing address may need to vote in person, and those with a disability or a language barrier may need assistance to vote. Both options are necessary to afford every Maine resident this fundamental right.”

Mike Tipping, Maine People’s Alliance: “Maine should quickly implement online voter registration, allow free voting through the mail, prepare for safe in-person voting and take other steps to strengthen the ability of Mainers to have their voices heard. Now is the time to act to protect our democracy from the pandemic.”

Destie Hohman Sprague, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby: “Democracy depends on free and fair access to voting. Online voter registration, low-barrier access to absentee ballots for every eligible voter, and a safe in-person voting process will help keep our communities safe and healthy while preserving our inclusive democractic processes."

Julian Snow, State Director, NextGen Maine: “This year, voting is both more important and more challenging than ever for young Mainers. While this pandemic has highlighted the need for expanded vote by mail and online voter registration options for the 2020 election, Maine's youth deserve accessible, convenient voting options year in and year out. We need Governor Mills and Secretary Dunlap to protect our right to participate in our democracy, no matter the circumstances.”

Nicole Clegg, Senior Vice President, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England: “Our state often has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the country. And this year, it’s as important as any other that everyone can vote and do it safely. Creating online options to register to vote, taking steps to make it easier to vote by mail including providing postage, and keeping in-person voting options for those who aren't able to vote by mail can go a long way in keeping our most vulnerable populations protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rob Booth, RepresentUs: “Some states have forced their voters to go to crowded and underprepared polling places during a public health emergency. We can’t let that happen in Maine. And the answer is simple and proven, which is why we are asking for accessible, secure mail-in ballots and safe in-person voting sites that ensure that Mainers won’t have to put their health on the line to vote”