Registered voters who did not vote in the past two federal elections have 20 days to verify address

State mailing seeks to confirm voter eligibility

Thu, 06/23/2022 - 9:45am

    Yes, the state of Maine is mailing notices to some registered voters asking them to verify their address ahead of the November election. But the state’s top elections official says voters should not be alarmed.

    The Secretary of State mailed 248,227 postcards on June 15 to registered voters who didn’t cast ballots in either of the past two federal elections — 2018 and 2020 — to verify their residence and eligibility to vote in Maine. 

    “Some people thought it was spam or a scam and certainly in today’s age of disinformation I can understand why people might sound an alarm if someone who doesn’t live in their house is being asked about their (voter) registration status, but this is simply a housekeeping method,” said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.

    The mailing is part of Maine’s routine maintenance of its voter lists under the National Voter Registration Act, and it will help election officials clean up the list by determining whether people live at the address where they registered to vote. As of this month, there are more than 1.1 million registered voters in Maine.

    Registered voters have 20 days to respond to the notice before election officials will begin to mark voters as “inactive” on the state’s voting lists. 

    Undeliverable mail will also result in the voter’s registration being changed to “inactive.”

    Voters who miss the deadline can still vote in November, but they will be asked by election officials to verify their address with a driver’s license or mailed bill that shows their street address, according to a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office. A person’s “active” voter status will be restored if they vote.

    Even if a registered voter does not respond to the mailing or vote in an upcoming election, the state legally cannot cancel a person’s voter registration until after the second general federal election since the notice was sent.

    “That’s a safeguard to make sure that eligible voters are not inadvertently or maliciously removed,” Bellows said of the delay between making a voter “inactive” and purging them from the voter roll. 

    Some addresses — especially apartment buildings that have changed tenants — may receive multiple postcards. Recipients should write “Does not live at this address” and mail the notice back to the department, Bellows said.

    Some households may also receive postcards for children or elderly parents, who no longer reside at that address. It is recommended the postcard be given to the voter to fill out with their new address — be it a college dorm, home in another town or nursing home, Bellows said.

    There is no law mandating that people vote. The state cannot strip a person’s voting rights away just because they have not recently cast a ballot.

    The only people who will be immediately removed from the state voters list are registered voters who confirm in writing that they have changed residences to a place outside the voting jurisdiction or people confirmed to be deceased with a date and location of death, Bellows said.

    “We don’t want the government to unilaterally remove voters from the rolls without checks and balances to make sure that people are not improperly purged. So there are very specific procedures outlined in federal law that are required before the Secretary of State’s office can remove any voter from the rolls,” Bellows said.