Invoice to change absentee voting law opposed by some Republicans

AUGUSTA — A invoice that would give Maine municipal clerks additional time to approach absentee ballots ran into opposition Monday from some Republican lawmakers who elevated problems about no matter whether it would increase the possibility of voter fraud.

The processing time for absentee ballots was extended from 4 times to seven for the final election under an executive buy issued by Gov. Janet Mills in response to higher demand from inhabitants who required to avoid voting in particular person to cut down their threat of contracting COVID-19.

A monthly bill to make the seven-day processing interval lasting is between dozens of steps before the Legislature’s Veterans and Authorized Affairs Committee that would influence elections and voting. The invoice is supported by Secretary of Condition Shenna Bellows and numerous nonprofits that aid switching ballot-processing techniques.

Invoice to change absentee voting law opposed by some Republicans

Jody Shellene feeds absentee ballots into a ballot reader in Sanford in November. Ben McCanna/Workers Photographer

Bellows claimed early processing past 12 months allowed Maine to compile unofficial final results for most races by the stop of election night time, in spite of history voter turnout.

But through a committee listening to Monday, Reps. Mary Anne Kinney and Josanne Dolloff questioned whether growing the time for processing ballots would increase the danger of fraud.

“Is it probable that the town clerk may perhaps not like one of the candidates on that ballot and as she opens them and uncreases them in some way they just really do not healthy into that equipment, since she finds one particular prospect is having far too several votes, is that a probability?” requested Dolloff, of Rumford.

Kinney, of Knox, explained the excess processing time could allow for extra chance for ballots to be manipulated.

“I’m worried about how we are heading to shield all those who vote early, who vote by absentee early, and if we are counting ballots a 7 days out, how do we warranty that those people ballots are guarded and all those figures do not start off coming out of the workplaces?” Kinney asked. “We’ve had troubles throughout the state in the previous with clerks, for numerous reasons, all kinds of unique things and clerks are not constantly ideal, which none of us are.”

She extra that numerous folks are worried about election fraud. “I’m not saying, I have observed that right here in Maine,” Kinney said. “But counting our ballots that early just worries me in phrases of exactly where we are heading to have the correct defense of those people ballots.”

Polling indicates ballot-fraud fears are greatly held amid Republican voters. A December survey of 24,000 voters by researchers at Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern and Rutgers uncovered that much more than 40 % of surveyed Republicans stated they believe that previous President Donald Trump gained the November election, even nevertheless no proof of fraud has been presented.

Maine Secretary of Point out Shenna Bellows and monthly bill sponsor Rep. Stephen Moriarty, D-Cumberland, explained the concerns expressed by Kinney and Dolloff are unfounded.

Moriarty claimed current Maine law presently prohibits counting ballots prior to polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. Clerks can get the state’s authorization to eliminate ballots from their return envelopes, stack them, and run them by way of tabulating machines in advance, but the actual tabulation cannot be carried out until Election Working day.

“The regulation suggests you can not get an early tally, you have no way of figuring out how the votes are coming in, who’s acquired the lead and who is coming up quick,” Moriarty claimed.

Kate Dufour, an lawyer for the Maine Municipal Association, noted that even in hand-rely towns, ballots were not truly counted until Election Working day and absentee ballots were processed publicly involving 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on a day that was introduced in progress.

“Which means we are not accomplishing this in the include of the night or the early early morning hrs, we are doing it generally through business hrs,” Dufour claimed. “There is nothing … that helps prevent you from remaining in the area when that approach takes spot. If anyone is stuffing ballots in a trash can, rather than a ballot box, then you would be there to witness that.”

In 2020, 231 of 500 municipal governments in Maine asked to procedure ballots early, and only 22 were being towns that did not use tabulation equipment, according to facts delivered by Bellows’ place of work.

Maine voters utilised absentee ballots in history-shattering figures in 2020 as they sought to stay clear of Election Working day crowds during the pandemic. Much more than 500,000 Maine voters – about 50 % of all registered voters in the state – used an absentee ballot past November, compared to just 40,000 absentee ballot requests during the 2016 presidential election.

The monthly bill will future be the issue of operate session in which lawmakers could amend it and will vote to advise passage or defeat to the whole Legislature.

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