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Referendum to forbid non-citizen voting in Maine kicks off in Bangor

One of the logos of the Maine Citizens Elections Committee. /Facebook

BANGOR – A group formed to make sure that the right to vote in Maine is reserved only for United States citizens kicked off their referendum campaign last week in Bangor at a standing room only fundraising event with over 100 people attending to support the measure.

The effort, a direct ballot initiative of legislation, came about after Democrats in the Maine House of Representatives voted down two different proposals to forbid non-citizen voting.

Mayor Ethan Strimling of Portland has been pushing the idea of allowing non-citizens to vote in the city of Portland, arguing that the city can allow non-citizen voting. A report from Maine Examiner in December of last year showed the Portland City Council had moved the idea to a council committee for consideration.

Read More: Strimling calls for non-citizen voting in Portland while highlighting Portland policies that went statewide

Some council members expressed concern about the privacy of non-citizens when they registered to vote.

The issue has been on the back burner of the policy goals of liberals in Maine since it was tried in 2009. In that era of Maine politics, Janet Mills as Attorney General gave the green light to a proposal in the Maine Legislature to allow non-citizen voting. Mills told a legislative committee that there was no constitutional impediment to allowing non-citizens to vote in Maine.

In 2019, two proposals were brought forward to amend Maine’s Constitution to specifically forbid non-citizen voting.

To the surprise of many observers, House Democrats fell in line behind Speaker Sara Gideon and voted down one proposal even after the Senate passed it unanimously. That proposal was sponsored by Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham.

Read More: Maine House Democrats unite to vote against bill to ban non-citizen voting

Another proposal, sponsored by Rep. Nate Wadsworth, met a similar fate, receiving broad bipartisan support in the Maine Senate with a vote of 32-3 for approval. It then died under Speaker Sara Gideon’s gavel in the Maine House, voted down twice with Gideon leading the charge against it.

Now, the proposal will be placed directly in the hands of the people of Maine.

The group that will bring it to the people, called The Maine Citizens Elections Committee, is chaired by Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham. Over the course of the next few months they will work to collect more than 64,000 signatures on official state petitions in their bid to put a simple question on the ballot for a statewide referendum.

If successful, the people of Maine would have a vote in the matter, free of any opposition by legislators in Augusta.

Rep. Faulkingham said in a press release that the event showed that support is strong for his committee’s proposal, “The event this evening has shown us that Maine people are ready to take this question to voters. It has been blocked by the Legislature for far too long,” said Faulkingham.

Former Governor Paul LePage headlined the Bangor event, and more than 115 people attended.

One of the founding donors to the committee is herself an immigrant, said Rep. Faulkingham. Veronique Grignon, an immigrant from Canada who became a citizen in 2016, was one of the first donors to the effort.

“It’s not surprising to me, that one of our first donors is a legal immigrant,” said Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham, Chairman of the Maine Citizen Elections Committee.

“Legal immigrants have a lot of pride in earning their citizenship,” Faulkingham continued, “and they understand the importance of gaining citizenship before earning the privilege to vote in elections.” 

Faulkingham says the ballot question is a very simple one, “Do you believe only United States citizens should vote in all of our elections?”

If his committee is successful, the people of Maine will get a chance to answer that question. According to organizers, the effort has won the support of grassroots supporters and current and former lawmakers. To learn more about the Maine Citizen Elections Committee, you can visit their website at https://www.mainecitizenelections.com/

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