Roundup: House rejects early in-person voting and bill to dock lawmakers’ pay when government shuts down

Topsham poll worker Anette Philippon collects ballots during a special election on August 27. BDN photo by Troy Bennett.

Topsham poll worker Anette Philippon collects ballots during a special election on August 27. BDN photo by Troy Bennett.

A bill to allow Mainers to vote in-person at the ballot booth earlier than election day failed to gain the two-thirds support needed to clear the House on Wednesday.

The move required a super-majority because it is an amendment to the state Constitution. The final vote was 87-57.

Supporters of the bill, mostly Democrats, said the bill was an effort to modernize Maine’s voting and extend the vote to as many people as possible by creating a longer window by which voters could cast their ballots. Opponents, many of whom are Republicans, said the bill was unnecessary because Maine already allows early voting by absentee ballot.

“Maine has a mechanism by which anyone can vote early 30 days out, they don’t even have to show up at the Town Hall. We have a very easy voting system,” said House Minority Whip Alex Willette, R-Mapleton.

LD 156 would have allowed voters to cast their ballots by showing up at their local polling place before Election Day. Each municipality would be allowed to opt out of conducting early voting.

The bill had the support of the ACLU of Maine and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, whose department is responsible for the administration of elections. It was opposed by the Maine Municipal Association.

Absentee votes are available for any reason up to three days before the election. When they are filled out and delivered back to the polling place, they are held until Election Day, when the ballots are cast by the polling official, usually a town or city clerk. Early voting would have seen the voters cast their ballots themselves at their local polling place.

The bill will now go to the Senate.

Bill to dock lawmakers’ pay in case of government shutdown killed in House

After a lengthy floor debate and several votes, during which time the momentum seemed to swing freely from one direction to the other, lawmakers in the House on Wednesday defeated a bill that would have docked legislators’ pay $100 for every day of a government shutdown.

First, a recommendation to reject the bill was defeated, 80-64. Then, a separate recommendation to accept it was defeated, 66-78. Ultimately, the bill was killed with a 109-34 vote.

The bill, LD 1541, would have docked lawmaker pay in the second year of a session for failure to pass a budget in the first, which would result in a shutdown. It would not have affected the governor’s pay, thanks to a protection of executive salary enshrined in the state Constitution.

Proponents said the bill was a good-faith gesture to the thousands of state employees and others who would see their paychecks stop in the case of a government shutdown. Opponents of the bill said it was nothing more than a political ploy to win points in the home districts.

One representative, Terry Hayes, a Democrat from Buckfield, voted against the bill when it came to the State and Local Government Committee, where it received a nearly unanimous report of “ought not to pass.”

Hayes said that if a majority of lawmakers passed a budget only to see it vetoed by the governor, they should not be punished if two-thirds cannot come together to override the veto.

“I love the concept, but in practical implementation, it doesn’t work,” she said.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.