WASHINGTON — The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Maine officials that will help to ensure full access to voting for Maine’s citizens with disabilities and to protect the accuracy and integrity of Maine’s statewide voter registration list in accordance with the provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
“I commend Attorney General Rowe and Secretary of State Dunlap for their willingness to protect the integrity of the voting process without delay and to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunity to cast a ballot privately and independently as other voters,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “These reforms should give all eligible voters in Maine greater confidence in the state’s elections.”
The agreement sets forth the state’s plan for ensuring that each polling place has a voting system that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and can generate a permanent paper record that can be manually audited. The agreement also sets forth the state’s plan for creating a statewide computerized voter registration database that will help to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. A lawsuit, filed contemporaneously with the agreement, followed a Justice Department investigation that found that Maine had not yet fully complied with HAVA’s requirements that each polling place have a voting system accessible to disabled voters, and that the state create a statewide computerized voter registration database. The Justice Department’s investigation also found that Maine’s voter rolls contained a significant number of ineligible voters.
“Maine has a proud tradition of voter participation," said Paula Silsby, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine. "These measures will provide immediate and lasting reform and will help ensure the integrity of Maine’s elections.”
The agreement, which must be approved by the federal district court in Maine, requires the state to provide each polling place with a voting system that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities. The agreement also requires the state to develop a centralized statewide database and to begin conducting a program of list maintenance. Maine’s Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap added, "Maine and the Justice Department share a common goal of full and successful implementation of the Help America Vote Act. We're working to modernize our election process and make it even stronger, and are pleased that the DOJ has agreed to our plan for doing so.”
With this lawsuit, Maine becomes the third state in the nation to be sued by the Department of Justice for not complying with the database requirements of HAVA, after New York and Alabama. The Justice Department has also brought several suits under the NVRA to ensure the accuracy and integrity of each state’s registration list and to assure that each state processes registration applications in a timely and accurate manner. More information about HAVA, the NVRA, and other federal voting laws are available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov. Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.