AUGUSTA — A bill proposing a constitutional amendment to allow an enhanced early-voting system in Maine fell short Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers voted 87-57 in favor of the bill, but that was several votes shy of the two-thirds needed to send the issue to voters, who have final approval of changes to the Maine Constitution.
No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Four Republicans and three Democrats did not vote.
The bill, L.D. 156, sponsored by Rep. Michael Shaw, D-Standish, would change the Maine Constitution to give cities and towns the option of allowing in-person voting before Election Day. It does not specify how long before Election Day voting could be allowed.
The same bill received majority votes in the House and Senate last year, but fell short of two-thirds in both chambers. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Legislature, held the bill and brought it back for the current session.
Maine is one of 27 states that allow no-excuse absentee voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference also lists Maine as one of 32 states that allow early, in-person voting, but all early voting in Maine is done by absentee ballot.
Democrats said the bill would provide more opportunities for people to vote. Republicans said the measure is unnecessary because Maine already allows no-excuse absentee voting.
Last year, the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine, a panel appointed by then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a Republican, recommended allowing early voting, citing findings from pilot programs.
The measure has been opposed by Republicans, who say the constitutional amendment would not include a limit on early voting, leaving it to the Legislature to decide how early the ballots could be cast.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: