AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs today gave approval to LD 1463,  “An Act To Create An Automatic Voter Registration System.” The legislation, introduced by Speaker Sara Gideon, creates a process that would automatically register eligible Mainers to vote when they interact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or another approved state agency where they already provide proof of eligibility for voter registration.

               “One of the most significant steps we can take as a democracy is to make the process of registering to vote as easy as possible for all who are eligible, so everyone has the opportunity to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” said Speaker Gideon. “An Automatic Voter Registration system will save Mainers’ time and our State money, and ensure every eligible Mainer’s right to participate fully in our democracy however they wish. So far, 18 other states have adopted some form of Automatic Voter Registration and seen great success in providing more efficient and secure election systems.”

LD 1463 will allow eligible Mainers to be registered to vote when they interact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or another approved state agency where they provide proof of eligibility for voter registration—including name, address, citizenship status, and signature. For an eligible voter, this information would be automatically added to the Central Voter Registration file. Election officials will then make available an option for the voter to enroll with a party or to decline registration altogether. Outdated information, e.g. old addresses, of registered voters will also be automatically updated.

Voters can still register with a voter registration card at their town hall if they prefer, and registration would not become mandatory. If an eligible Mainer does not wish to register and have their information on the voter rolls, they will be provided the opportunity to decline registration.

Maine would be the 19th state to adopt an  Automatic Voter Registration system. Oregon became the first in 2015, and that  effort is widely considered a success. The state was  able to update the address information for 570,000 voters. Since then, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws.

LD 1463 garnered early bipartisan support with Democratic, Republican, and Independent cosponsors. It was amended by the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee and now faces votes in the House and Senate.