VLA Committee Will Hear Testimony on LDs 121 and 155 on Wednesday, February 15


AUGUSTA - A broad coalition of advocates will be at the State House tomorrow to oppose two bills that would make it harder for people in Maine to vote. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will hold hearings on LD 121, “An Act to Require Photo Identification to Vote,” and LD 155, "An Act to Protect Voting Integrity by Establishing a Residency Verification Requirement for Purposes of Voting," on Wednesday, February 15.

LD 121 would require Mainers to present photo ID at the polls in order to vote. 21 million Americans lack the government-issued photo identification needed under this bill; many of them cannot afford to pay for the documents required to secure one. Voter ID laws disproportionately affect poor people, people in rural communities, people of color and the elderly.

LD 155 would require increased scrutiny of voters who list a college dorm as their residence. It requires students to pay additional fees and taxes before they can vote. The Supreme Court struck down special residency verification requirements for students in Symm v. U.S. (1979).

While President Trump, Gov. LePage and other elected officials have made false statements about voter fraud, proponents of such laws have failed to show that voter fraud is an actual problem among college students or the general public, either in Maine or nationwide.

The following quotes can be attributed as noted:

Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director, ACLU of Maine: “Voting is the cornerstone of democracy, protected by more constitutional amendments than any other right. Laws that are designed to take that right away from some people amount to illegal and unconstitutional voter suppression, and we will challenge them at every step of the way.”

Gia Drew, program director, EqualityMaine: “EqualityMaine stands united in opposition to both these unnecessary bills. These bills are a calculated and targeted attempt to discourage and disenfranchise eligible Maine voters, including members of the LGBT community, from exercising their civic right to participate in the voting process.”

Taryn Hallweaver, legislative director, Maine People’s Alliance: “Maine has the oldest population in the country. We should be doing everything we can to encourage students to come to Maine, stay in Maine, put down roots here. LD 155 sends the message that college students aren’t really part of our communities. That is the exact opposite of what we want.”   

Bob Talbot, NAACP-Maine: “Our country has a troubling history of passing laws to take away the right to vote from certain people. Blatant violations like poll taxes and literacy tests were outlawed in the 1960s, but these bills are just the latest in a long line of attempts to chip away at voting rights.”

Jill Ward, president, League of Women Voters of Maine: “Voting is the most fundamental expression of citizenship in our democracy. The expansion of the franchise to include all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, and the breaking down of barriers to citizens’ voter participation, has been one of the great successes in the evolution of American democracy. We believe that these bills would turn back the clock and erect unnecessary barriers to voter participation.”