June 24, 2020

Alliance for Retired Americans Sues State of Maine to Remove Barriers to Absentee Voting in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUGUSTA – Today, the Alliance for Retired Americans and two of its members, Don Berry and Doug Born, filed a lawsuit in the Maine Superior Court to protect the rights of older Maine voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alliance was joined in the suit by Vote.org.

The lawsuit alleges that the State of Maine’s vote by mail requirements are burdensome and will force older voters to choose between protecting their health or casting a ballot they know will be counted.

The plaintiffs noted that the number of people voting absentee by mail has surged as the coronavirus pandemic continues and is expected to reach record levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that Americans should expect a second deadly wave of infections in the fall. It is expected that high-risk people, including older Maine residents, will still be advised to practice self-isolation and social distancing in November and have no choice but to vote by mail.

However, the state’s onerous absentee ballot measures make it impossible for older residents of Maine to cast a mail-in ballot and be confident it will count.

The plaintiffs are asking the Maine Superior Court to mandate that Maine:

  • Allow Maine residents to register to vote online;
  • Eliminate the requirement that a voter registration application be accompanied by a photocopy of an identification document;
  • Ensure that ballots postmarked by Election Day, but not yet received by a Supervisor of Elections, are counted;
  • Permit any third party the voter chooses to submit their sealed ballots in person on their behalf;
  • Provide pre-paid postage for all mail ballots; and
  • Notify voters and provide an opportunity to cure their ballots if they are rejected due to a technical defect or a signature mis-match.

“The right to vote is sacred and older citizens of Maine take their civic responsibility seriously,” continued Fiesta. “The court must act now to protect both their personal health and safety and their right to vote. Seniors are most at risk of developing COVID-19. They should not have to stand in long lines at polling sites to make sure their votes are actually counted.”

“There are more than 235,000 seniors registered to vote in Maine,” Mr. Fiesta continued. “The Alliance for Retired Americans is committed to ensuring that all older Americans nationwide can exercise their right to vote, especially during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

“Maine is the oldest state in the nation. Nearly 21 percent of the population is over the age of 65,” said Don Berry, a plaintiff and President of the Maine Alliance for Retired Americans who lives in Oxford County, Maine. “Older people like me are at a particularly high risk of getting infected with the coronavirus. If I have to stand in the long lines the Secretary of State anticipates on Election Day, my health will be put at risk. All Maine voters, especially older people, should be able to safely vote by mail and not have to wonder if our votes will be counted. “

Maine has the highest percentage of residents over 65 years old, at nearly 21 percent of the population.

“I know my signature has changed as I’ve gotten older,” said Doug Born, a plaintiff and member of the Alliance for Retired Americans who lives in Cumberland County, Maine. “It would be outrageous if an election official decides my signature was invalid and tosses out my ballot without even telling me or allowing me to prove it is valid.”

This year the Alliance for Retired Americans, working with its state chapters, has filed lawsuits to protect vote by mail and absentee voters in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin in addition to Maine.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

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The Alliance for Retired Americans is a grassroots advocacy organization with more than 4.4 million members nationwide who fight for retirement security for all Americans. The Maine Alliance for Retired Americans is a state affiliate of the national Alliance for Retired Americans and has more than 21,000 members statewide.

Contact: Lisa Cutler, lcutler@retiredamericans.org

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