FARMINGTON — About 30 people on Saturday marched through the streets of Farmington, hoping to stir up support for same-day voter registration.

Members of the Franklin County Democrats, who organized the rally, said voting yes on Question 1 in Tuesday’s election will protect people who are being excluded from the voting process. If the question passes, it would repeal the new law, which has yet to go into effect, requiring voters to register at least two business days before election day.

Anne Geller, chairwoman of the group in Franklin County, pointed to the diverse groups of people who will struggle to vote if same-day voter registration is not restored.

Many residents, from college students to senior citizens, rely on the voting right, something that has driven high voter turnouts statewide and promoted civic engagement, she said during a rally stop at a park in downtown Farmington. Mainers have been able to register on election day for the past 38 years.

“This is about encouraging strong voter turnouts and protecting the democratic process,” said Geller, 63.

Gov. Paul LePage and other Republican lawmakers have said voting no on the question will prevent voter fraud and reduce the burden on polling clerks, who have to try to review the new registrations. LePage, in his radio address Saturday, urged voters to vote no on the question Tuesday.

At Saturday’s rally, two prominent Maine Democrats disputed the claims of those against the question, characterizing them as attempts to mask the misguided political motivation’s of LePage and others.

Former Attorney General Janet Mills told the crowd at the rally that the law was devised to keep people from voting, targeting groups that typically vote for Democrats. It keeps college students and the people who work multiple jobs from getting to the polls, she said.

“It’s not about fraud in the least, it’s about fundamental freedoms,” she said, eliciting a loud cheer from the crowd at Meetinghouse Park.

After the rally, Mills, who is also a former Democratic state representative for Farmington, said that she prosecuted the only two voter fraud cases.

“Neither had anything to do with same-day voter registration,” she said.

The rally stopped at the park and a coffee shop after marching along downtown sidewalks, stopping to chant, “Value the vote” and “Yes on one” at passing cars and pedestrians.

Most of the marchers carried signs, with some that read: “Honk, if you like to vote.” and “It worked for 38 years.”

Among the marchers was Bob Michaud, a 62-year-old retired Maine legislative law librarian from Jay. He described himself as a registered Democrat who doubts the claims that same-day voter registration causes fraud.

“We’ve had this law in effect for so long that fraud should have come up before, but none of (the new claims) have been proven,” he said.

Michaud and his wife, retired teacher Claire Laverdiere-Michaud, 63, said they didn’t have a problem if voters defeated the referendum, as long as a lot of residents turn up at the polls.

“If they vote no, then the people have spoken,” the husband said. “Vote either way but vote, this whole thing is about the right to vote.”

Geller argued people will be excluded from voting because of added confusion, both for residents and polling clerks. Certain people also find it tough to register beforehand because they work multiple jobs, transportation problems and other issues unique to each voter, she said.

The rally culminated with a speech by former Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who spoke from atop a chair to about 30 people gathered inside the Wicked Gelato coffee shop on Main Street.

Dunlap told them the Republican lawmakers took away same-day voter registration based on unfounded claims and seeking a political victory. The law hurts all voters, regardless of their party affiliation, keeping more people from their civic duty, he said.

“It was about the phantom political advantage that some people think they will gain, but it ended up disenfranchising many voters,” he said.

Dunlap, a Democrat, is running for the seat held by Maine U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. He filed this week to enter the race but hasn’t officially announced his campaign, he said.

Dunlap, who lives in Old Town, said he attended the rally because he supports the cause, and the decision to had little to do with his campaign.

Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative group, said Saturday the claims made at the rally ignore the fact that 41 states, representing nearly 93 percent of the U.S. population, do not have same-day voter registration.

To claim that voters are being excluded is unfounded, because nationwide, voters have to register before election days, he said.

“You have to say the entire country is disenfranchised because this is how they do it,” he said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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