This is the third installment in an ongoing series on voting rights leading up to Election Day 2011.
Next week, Maine citizens will vote on a ballot initiative to strike down a Republican-passed bill to repeal election day voter registration in the state.
Question 1 will be on the ballot after thousands of volunteers collected over 50,000 signatures to call a citizen’s veto on LD 1376, which narrowly passed the Republican-controlled statehouse in June.
But as Mainers work the phones and knock on doors in droves this week — a representative from the Yes On 1 campaign told ThinkProgress they had over 500 volunteers — opponents of election day registration (EDR) have brought in a massive influx of secret conservative money to influence the vote.
The timing of the purchase, however, raises red flags. Maine election law mandates that groups disclose the names of its donors up until 11 days before the election, but within 11 days, only expenditures must be reported. This new quarter-million dollar contribution came nine days prior to the vote, allowing the source of the money to remain hidden.
In a cheap-advertising state like Maine, $250,000 will likely go a long way in influencing the results. The most recent poll found a tight race, with EDR’s proponents holding just a 4-point lead, 48-44.
Supporters of Question 1 are hoping volunteers will be able to rally support for the state’s long-held EDR law. Maine (along with Minnesota) became the first state in the nation to pass election day registration in 1973. During the subsequent 38 years, EDR has produced a major boost in voter turnout while also preventing fraud. (Just two cases of voter fraud have occurred in Maine over the past 20 years.) It allows thousands of Mainers who need to initiate or update their voter registration file to do so on election day, an option especially important for those who work during normal business hours and can’t take time off during the day to go to the town clerk.
ThinkProgress has been traveling around Maine this week to speak with citizens about the EDR battle. Stay tuned for more coverage.
The Maine Ethics Commission just levied a fine against the No On 1 campaign for not reporting its expenditures properly. The $3,251 fine was in response to the fact that “Secure Maine Votes spent $162,000 on television advertising on Oct. 28,” but the purchase report “was not filed until Monday, Oct. 31.”