AUGUSTA – The idea that Maine voters should show photo ID when they vote to in order to Maine’s elections secure is “rooted in white supremacy.” That is what Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows told the Maine Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee yesterday.
Bellows made the comments in testimony she gave in opposition to a proposal to implement a Voter ID requirement in Maine elections. Bellows went on to compare the Voter ID proposal to old “moral character tests” and said Voter ID “has become one of those tools of suppression.”
Senator Brad Farrin, a Republican, appeared to take offense to Bellows’ comments, following up with Bellows to tell her he found her comments “troubling” and that Bellows’ comments suggested that people who support Voter ID, “support white supremacy” which he found unacceptable and said was just not true.
Bellows then tried to direct her comments to the “impact” of the policy, but never fully walked back the claim about Voter ID being rooted in white supremacy – just that, Bellows said, she felt the sponsors of Voter ID in Maine thought they were doing a good thing.
Farrin also questioned data Bellows presented, which was all from one source and possibly not 100% accurate.
Speaking in defense of supporters of Voter ID requirements, Rep. Patrick Corey told Secretary Bellows that he was concerned, to Senator Farrin’s point about Bellows comments, supporters of a Voter ID law get put in a position of “taking on” this “ad hominem white supremacist smear.” Corey told Bellows her later explanation didn’t make that smear any easier to swallow for people who believe in Voter ID.
A moment later, Bellows doubled down, telling the committee that in other states “white people are not turned away at the polls” for failure to have ID at the same rates and levels as black, indigenous and people of color.
“But the argument you’re making is that there is a white supremacist intent there,” said Rep. Corey, reminding Bellows again that the sponsors of the bill had spoken about concerns of voter fraud, not any issues of race.
“I just want to echo what Representative Corey said,” added Rep. MaryAnne Kinney in a comment to Secretary Bellows, pushing back on Bellows’ comments about securing Maine’s elections being rooted in white supremacy.
Rep. Kinney explained her concerns about accuracy at polling locations and describing a mistake that occurred with her husband and father-in-law where the lack of Voter ID and a mistake by an election clerk had nearly caused someone to be disenfranchised.
“You need an ID to do everything nowadays,” said Rep. Kinney. Pointing out that Mainers even need ID to get assistance from the government.
“This just seems like a no-brainer to protect our election results and so forth,” said Rep. Kinney.
After Rep. Kinney’s comments, Bellow said the Voter ID proposal would be expensive and would not “increase” the number of people who vote.
Senator Brad Farrin, not yet willing to let Bellows off the hot seat, also sought clarity from Bellows on her claim that the voter registration process itself was enough to ensure integrity in Maine’s elections.
Farrin’s question essentially put Bellows in a position of telling the committee that no photo ID document was required to prove a person’s residency, other items such as a lease or utility bill could be used. Bellows then referred people “at home” to Maine’s Title 21A which lays out voter registration requirements.
The VLA Committee will meet in the near future to consider their recommendations for the Voter ID proposals. At some point, it is expected that both the Maine House and Maine Senate will vote on the proposals, though passage is far from certain.
More than 35 states require voters to present photo ID when voting. In fact, the Democratic National Committee, Bellows’ political party has even required photo ID for party members to be credentialed to attend their own convention.
Does Maine’s Secretary of State believe her own party’s policies are then rooted in white supremacy? The world may never know.
The link below provides video of Secretary of State Bellows’ comments to the committee.