A legislative committee has advanced a bill that would allow voters to automatically receive absentee ballots.
Beginning this year, Maine voters who are disabled or at least 65 years old can request that town clerks automatically mail absentee ballots to them for every statewide and municipal election. Some lawmakers now want to make that same option available to all voters.
The bill, LD 1690, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick, has the support of Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who pointed out that five other states already allow “ongoing absentee balloting.”
Bellows did suggest, however, that automatic mailings cease whenever a voter is moved to “inactive” status in her office’s database to avoid ballots being sent to voters who may have changed addresses or are no longer eligible.
But Maine’s Town and City Clerks Association opposes the measure. Speaking on behalf of the organization, Waterville clerk Patti Dubois told members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that a further expansion is premature because clerks are still rolling out ongoing absentee balloting for older and disabled Mainers. She said there are also concerns about costs.
Committee members were divided on the issue, voting 6-3 along party lines in favor of the bill.
“I see this as … expanding access to folks, especially working-class folks that don’t always have the time to show up at the polls and request their ballot,” said Democratic Rep. Laura Supica of Bangor, the committee co-chair.
“I don’t think they are ready, that they are set up for it,” replied Republican Sen. Jeff Timberlake of Turner. “I just think this is the wrong time in the wrong place at this point in time … I do not think it’s necessary.”
The bill will now go to the House and Senate for consideration. If approved as amended by the committee, the change would take effect by Dec. 31, 2025.