02/05/2013 12:10 pm ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

Maine Voter ID Law Not Recommended By Independent Elections Panel

WASHINGTON -- An independent panel formed by a Republican official and charged with examining Maine's electoral system has concluded that the state should not a implement voter ID system.

"The Commission, by a 4 to 1 vote, finds that the negative aspects of a Voter ID law outweigh its potential benefits and recommends that a Voter ID system not be pursued in Maine," read the report from the five-member panel.

Former Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers (R) -- a backer of voter ID -- put together the commission last year at the request of the Maine legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. The Huffington Post received an advance copy of the report, which Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D) will present to the committee on Wednesday.

In their report, the commissioners went through the pros and cons of implementing a voter ID law. Pros included the belief that voter ID would "provide an effective tool against voter impersonation" and the fact that such laws have already been implemented in dozens of other states.

The panel ultimately concluded, however, that the potential drawbacks to Maine's electoral system far outweighed any benefits.

"A voter ID law is unnecessary as there is little or no history in Maine of voter impersonation or identification fraud," wrote the panel, adding that such a law would likely "slow down the voting process on Election Day" and make it more difficult for homeless, African-American, elderly, poor and rural voters to access the polls.

"This extensive report puts a real nail in the coffin for Voter ID, demonstrating clearly that any perceived benefit is far outweighed by the consequences it would have for Maine citizens," said Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D), who has been an outspoken opponent of voter ID.

The Brennan Center for Justice has found that nationwide, as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID and could therefore have their access to the polls affected by such a requirement.

The panel's report also concluded that Maine should keep in place its law allowing same-day registration at the polls, which Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Republican legislators attempted to eliminate. In November 2011, however, Mainers voted, by a relatively large margin, to reinstate same-day registration.

"[The commission] believes that the voters have already spoken recently on this matter, deciding that we should keep same day registration in Maine," wrote the panel in its report. "That being the case, we determined that we should and would not recommend disturbing this decision."

LePage's office did not return a request for comment on the commission's findings.

The issue of voter ID became a hot topic in Maine in November, when outgoing Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster claimed that part of the reason Republicans lost their races was because black voters cast ballots in rural Maine towns.

"In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day," he said in an interview with WSCH TV. "Everybody has the right to vote, but nobody in town knows anybody that's black -- how did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out." He added that without a voter ID law, the system was "fraught for abuse."

Webster later apologized.



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