GOP Legislators Spooked By Pro-Voter Referendum Join Democrats To Kill Maine Voter ID Proposal

Though Republicans enjoy full control over Maine’s lawmaking process, they’ve dropped a push to require certain photo identification in order to vote.

Though Maine Republicans were considering voter ID legislation at the beginning of the year, Democrats vociferously objected because the bill could prevent thousands of Mainers from voting, particularly elderly individuals. On Friday, Republicans acceded to those objections, striking the voter ID language from an election law bill. This is the second time voter ID has failed to pass the GOP-controlled Maine legislature. Last year, a voter ID bill failed in the Senate after first being passed by the House.

In 2011, half a dozen states passed similar voter ID measures, from Texas to Wisconsin to South Carolina. As a result, millions of poor, rural or minority voters could be barred from voting in the 2012 election, a level of disenfranchisement not seen since the Jim Crow era.

Maine Republicans were chastened during the 2011 session after they passed a bill to eliminate the state’s 38 year-old law allowing for Election Day registration, only to see their move overturned by a citizens veto in November. More than 60 percent of Mainers rebuked the legislature and voted to restore Election Day registration.

State Rep. Diane Russell (D) pointed to this episode to explain why Republicans opted against pursuing voter ID again this year. “Last November, 60% of Maine voters overwhelmingly rejected the Republican election suppression agenda,” Russell, who sits on the committee that removed the voter ID language, told ThinkProgress. “It is a real testament to Maine voters that Republicans decided against pursuing another failed election suppression policy by killing voter ID.”

Former state Sen. David Trahan (R), who served until December 2011, agreed with this take. “I do think that the referendum question–Question 1–changed that dynamic,” Trahan told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. “And I think you’re going to see some gun-shy folks revisiting something to do with voting.”

Friday’s move likely puts voter ID to rest in Maine for 2012.