Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Secretary Bellows supports bills that would codify pandemic election improvements

AUGUSTA — Secretary of State Shenna Bellows is supporting several bills now pending in the Legislature that would make permanent many of the innovative measures the State put in place for voting during the pandemic.

The State launched the absentee ballot tracking service and provided partial reimbursement for installation of ballot drop boxes at municipal offices across the state, both of which assisted voters in safely and confidently participating in the statewide elections in 2020.

The Secretary of State’s Office also provided guidance for clerks to make every attempt to “cure” absentee ballot defects with the voter before rejecting the ballot, to ensure that those unfamiliar with the process would not be unnecessarily denied their right to vote.

“We fully support the proposals now under review by the Legislature to make these advancements permanent for all elections in Maine,” said Secretary Bellows. “Voters have told us that these efforts made it easier for them to cast their ballot with confidence in the security and integrity of the process.

“We’ve also heard from municipal clerks who know first-hand that the improvements instated for the 2020 elections reduced the number of voter queries they received and allowed them to ensure that no voter was disenfranchised from casting their ballot.”

Additionally, the Governor’s office expanded processing time for absentee ballots in 2020, allowing clerks a full week to handle the unprecedented influx of absentee ballots and thereby avoiding delays in election results reporting. This provision was passed into law earlier this legislative session.

Secretary Bellows supports additional improvements to Maine’s election processes currently under consideration by the Legislature, such as launching an online voter registration portal and instituting risk-limiting election audits. These efforts would serve to improve convenience for voters and confidence in the State’s elections processes. 
“Online voter registration will help us reach more Maine citizens to increase voter participation from more communities, advancing our goals of equity and inclusion,” said Secretary Bellows, “while a post-election audit process would build upon our success here in Maine to further strengthen public confidence and assist election administrators in ongoing improvements to our elections.”