A bill to impose a 15-foot setback on people videotaping voters and petition signature gatherers at polling places took a step forward Friday.

Members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted 11-0 to support the bill, which was sparked by concerns that surfaced during last year’s elections.

Some voters as well as petition circulators complained that individuals with video recorders were intimidating people who were asked to sign a petition supporting a ballot initiative to require background checks on private gun sales in Maine. The organization behind the videotaping said they were not recording voters but, instead, documenting the interaction with petition circulators in order to protect “the integrity of the signature-gathering process.”

The bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, would require anyone videotaping to stay at least 15 feet outside the “guardrail enclosure” set up at polling places as well as from voters, including those standing in a location where petition signatures are being gathered. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap supported the measure.

“This proactive approach gives our election wardens the authority to prevent activity that many voters feel is nothing more than intimidation,” said Diamond, a former Maine secretary of state. “Polling places exist to facilitate the most core function of our democracy: The vote. We must be equipped to handle disruptions and keep our polls free from intimidation.”

The bill, L.D. 1574, now goes to the full Legislature for consideration.


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