AUGUSTA – Today, the ACLU of Maine and the Maine Conservation Voters filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit challenging barriers to absentee voting in Maine.
“Maine has an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in this fall’s election,” said Zach Heiden, chief counsel for the ACLU of Maine. “Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of absentee voting, it’s critical for the court to eliminate barriers to participation and to make sure that the voice of every eligible voter is heard.”
The brief, filed in support of the plaintiffs in Alliance for Retired Americans v. Dunlap, makes three arguments. First, it argues the state requirement that absentee ballots must be received by November 3 unconstitutionally disenfranchises voters. The brief asks the court to require that the state count ballots as long as they are postmarked by November 3.
The brief also argues that the lack of prepaid postage on absentee ballots amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax. Other rural states, including Kansas, Iowa and West Virginia, have provided prepaid postage for mail-in voters.
Finally, the brief argues that voters should be given notice and an opportunity to fix any perceived signature issues that town clerks identify with voters' absentee ballots.
“If a town clerk thinks your signature on your absentee ballot doesn’t match the signature on your voter registration card, they can throw out your ballot, without telling you or giving you the opportunity to address the issue,” said Beth Ahearn, director of government affairs for Maine Conservation Voters. “The state should abandon arbitrary procedures, and ensure voting by absentee ballot is as safe and straightforward as possible.”
In remarks on Aug. 13, President Trump admitted that he opposed USPS emergency funding because he wanted to make voting by mail more difficult – remarks he later attempted to walk back. Additionally, President Trump has raised baseless claims that voting by mail results in voter fraud, even though he votes by mail. These false claims divert attention from actual systematic disenfranchisement, through tactics such as voter roll purges, voter ID laws and now, efforts to restrict voting by mail.
“The presidential election will largely be conducted by mail, and the Trump administration has worked to undermine the USPS,” said Heiden. “The USPS has already informed Maine election officials that it cannot guarantee delivery of absentee ballots by November 3. The state needs to act proactively to ensure all eligible voters can vote safely, which is required by the Maine Constitution.”