Maine’s election integrity to be tested again on Election Day

Published: Nov. 6, 2022 at 9:25 AM EST
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Maine (WMTW) - Maine’s reputation for clean elections will be tested once again on Election Day.

Already, more than a quarter of active Maine voters have requested absentee ballots, surpassing the total in the last midterm and gubernatorial election in 2018.

Over 500 municipalities conduct elections, but since 2007, there’s been one central database of registered voters.

“On Election Day, we on the state level are on high alert for any potential problems,” Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in an interview with our media partner, WMTW.

Bellows, who oversees Maine elections and advocated for new laws to protect election workers and equipment, says proven instances of voter fraud are practically nonexistent.

For example, in 2020, out of 828,305 ballots cast and counted, there were only two documented cases of illegal voting, both by University of Maine-Orono students. One forged a signature to cast someone else’s absentee ballot. Another voted twice in different polling places.

“So, if you vote twice in Maine, we will catch you, and you will be prosecuted,” Bellows said.

Bellows and most Democrats oppose proposals requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, citing the inconvenience to voters and cost to produce state ID’s for people who don’t already have one.

When Bellows testified against the idea last year, she told the state legislature, there were 162,266 registered Maine voters who couldn’t be matched with a Maine driver license or state ID.

Former Governor Paul LePage, who is running for his old job, and other Republicans seized on this as a vulnerability.

LePage told a Republican fundraiser in April, “163,000 people voted for the presidency here in Maine in 2020. None of them had any form of ID.”

But Bellows told me that was nothing to worry about.

Bellows said, “Every Mainer who votes has to demonstrate proof of identity and proof of residency at the moment of registration. But we have many Mainers, like my mom, for example, who have lived in the same town for decades and were registered to vote long before 2007. So, just because a record doesn’t have a current driver license number or id number doesn’t mean it’s a false record.”

At $3.46 to produce an ID card, it would cost the state $561,440 to provide cards to those 162,266 people.

The state elections division conducts voter roll maintenance annually, most recently in mid-October.

Of 1,124,897 registered voters, 904,674 were active and 220,223 were inactive, meaning they didn’t vote in the last two federal elections, 2020 and 2018.

If they miss the next two, 2022 and 2024, their registrations will be cancelled.

Maine is one of 33 states involved with the Electronic Registration Information Center, which checks for duplicate registrations in other states.

LePage has said he will trust this year’s results.

“Whoever wins, wins, and I’ve always said that,” LePage told reporters on October 7 in Lewiston. “Instead of asking if I am going to accept the results of the election. I will.”

As for the Republican candidate in Maine’s closely contested 2nd Congressional District, Bruce Poliquin, I asked him at a joint campaign stop with LePage, near Bangor on November 2, if he too will accept this year’s results no matter what?

“We’re here to talk about heating oil,” Poliquin said, referring to the focus of the press conference at Dysart’s truck stop.

Poliquin talked for another 90 seconds but did not answer the question.

No matter how many absentee ballots are received, the secretary of state’s office expects full results to be reported on Election Night.