Waterville Deputy Clerk Britanee Guerette, left, directs set up while working with Lauris Trefethen while setting up Monday for the election at Thomas College in Waterville. Trefethen said she will be “floating for breaks and tallying” during the election. The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Voters who cast ballots Tuesday are likely to encounter activists seeking signatures to force two statewide referendums that could affect future campaigns and elections.

Both efforts are being spearheaded by Republicans, who are turning more to referendums, which have long been a favorite for progressives. One petition calls for a statewide referendum aimed at requiring people to present photo identification to vote. The other would repeal a bill approved by lawmakers last session that would allocate Maine’s four Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

A third referendum, which would limit donations to political action committees that spend independently to influence elections, has already qualified for the November ballot. That proposal would limit to $5,000 the amount any individual, business or political action committee could give to a PAC that makes expenditures that aren’t coordinated with or approved by any candidate in an election.

Activists are allowed to collect signatures for petitions outside the voting area as long as there is enough room and they don’t interfere with the election process or attempt to influence voters.

Organizers are on a relatively tight deadline to gather signatures to force a people’s veto referendum aimed at overturning a new law that would have Maine participate in a multistate effort to ensure that future U.S. presidents are chosen according to the national popular vote, not the Electoral College.

Democrats passed the national popular vote bill and Gov. Janet Mills allowed it to become law without her signature. Opponents have until Aug. 8 to collect at least 67,682 validated signatures to put the question on the November ballot. Otherwise, it will have to wait for the next statewide or general election in 2025.

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Under the law, Maine will join a compact of states that pledge to give all their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. If the petition drive falls short, the law will take effect on Aug. 9.

However, the compact itself would not take effect until enough states join to commit at least 270 electors to the effort, the minimum number needed to elect a president. The compact currently includes 16 states, plus Washington D.C., that control 205 electoral votes.

Proponents of the compact argue that the national popular vote should determine the presidential winner, and that the current system places too much importance on a handful of battleground states because of the number of electoral votes they control.

But opponents of the law say it would silence Maine voters, especially in the rural 2nd Congressional District, by giving too much influence to voting results in larger cities, like Los Angeles and New York. They argue that Maine’s system of splitting the votes between the winners of its two congressional districts and the statewide winner should be replicated throughout the country.

James DuPrie, a Lebanon Republican who is spearheading the Save the Vote 2024 campaign, said Monday he expects volunteers will have a strong presence at the polls Tuesday. He was distributing 800 petitions for the people’s veto to 28 regional coordinators throughout the state on Monday.

Since the people’s veto campaign made the news, DuPrie said he’s received an “astounding” response from people.

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“It’s been incredibly positive – a lot of people coming forward,” he said. “What’s heartening to me is we’re actually getting people from both sides of the aisle. Everybody views this as a partisan issue but there’s definitely a lot of commonality in recognizing that this does have a huge impact on what Maine’s vote means.”

The voter ID petition drive is being led by Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, and her Dinner Table political action committee, which has emerged as a dominant conservative fundraising and grassroots group.

That proposal, which is similar to a bill proposed in 2023, would require people to present a photo ID at the polls or when requesting an absentee ballot, unless they have a religious exemption to being photographed. Voters without a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted if they produce a photo ID within four days of the election. It would also require the secretary of state to provide free state nondriver IDs to people who need them.

Lauris Trefethen moves a chair while setting up Monday for the election at Thomas College in Waterville. Trefethen said she will be “floating for breaks and tallying” during the election. The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Proponents argue the requirement is needed to prevent voter fraud, especially among noncitizens, though they don’t point to any evidence that it’s actually a widespread problem. Opponents say the requirement would make it more difficult for legal voters, particularly older and more vulnerable voters, who are less likely to have driver’s licenses.

Efforts to enact a statewide voter ID requirement have been proposed repeatedly by Republicans in the Maine Legislature in recent years, but have been repeatedly blocked by Democrats, who have criticized the costs of such a program and warned that the new requirement would create long lines at the polls and effectively discourage voting.

“This has been defeated in the Legislature,” Libby said. “It’s time for Maine people to make their voices heard and to have the opportunity to vote on it themselves.”

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Libby said she expects to have petitioners at “a couple hundred” polling stations in all 16 counties across the state. Libby said she is aiming to have the statewide referendum in 2025 or 2026, depending on when she submits the signatures.

To make the ballot in 2025, signatures would need to be submitted by Jan. 23, 2025, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Thirty-six states have some form of voter ID requirement. A dozen states have strict laws, meaning voters without ID can only cast a provisional ballot and must take additional steps after the election to have their vote counted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states, including Georgia, Tennessee and Wisconsin, require a photo ID, while Arizona, North Dakota and Wyoming accept non-photo ID.

Polls open across the state Tuesday by 8 a.m. and close statewide at 8 p.m. Watch pressherald.com for live election results Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s elections include contested party primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as legislative and some county offices. Communities across the state will vote on school budgets and in some cases local office holders and referendum questions.

As of Friday, 22,147 absentee ballots out of 33,968 requested statewide had been returned to municipalities. Absentee ballots must be dropped off either in person or at a drop location in a voter’s municipality by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Maine allows people to register to vote on Election Day, as long as they bring proof of residency and identification. Current or former incarceration status does not disqualify any Mainer from registering to vote or casting their ballot. Incarcerated people at a correctional facility or county jail may register to vote in the Maine municipality where they established residency prior to incarceration.

This is the first state primary in which unenrolled voters can cast ballots in a party primary. However, voters will not be able to unenroll from a party and vote in a different primary on Election Day. That must have been done at least 15 days before the election.

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