A bill that would have required photo identification to vote was rejected by the House and Senate on April 25 and April 27.

LD 121 was a combination of several almost identical bills, one of which was introduced by Rep. Karl Ward, R-Dedham. It specified that the identification must be an official photo ID issued by the state or federal government, or by a college or university located in the state. The bill also provided that the fee for non-driver state IDs be waived for people without an acceptible ID who would use it solely for voting.

Ward said by phone April 26 that the bill was an effort to prevent voter fraud.

Voter lists are rife with errors, Ward said, and he knows this because the “knock list” he was given when campaigning, listing the names, addresses and and voting history of residents in his district, was based on the voter database. He said “dozens and dozens” of the names on the list were wrong because the person listed had moved away or died. Though the presence of errors does not mean people are voting multiple times, using false names or former addresses, he said, but the bill would have prevented that possibility.

“I think that if even one voter shows up pretending to be a dead person, or voting in a town that they no longer live in — all of that is wrong,” Ward said. “There is no legitimate argument out there (against) trying to prevent that from existing. I have to have an ID to buy a car, beer, cigarettes, a gun. It seems to me that voting is a pretty darn important thing. We all want our voting rights protected and not have the election tipped.”

The bill came out of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee with a divided report, with six members supporting the bill and seven, including Rep. Owen Casas, D-Rockport, opposing.

During public testimony on the bill, a representative of Municipal Town and City Clerks’ Association testified neither in support  nor opposition, but presented some of the arguments on both sides brought up by its members. Those supporting the bill argued it would increase voter confidence, decrease errors in checking the wrong name on the voter list, and decrease the chance of fraud.

Those opposing the ID requirement noted it could discourage voters or prevent someone who cannot provide an ID from voting, and would require hiring more staff because of the slower process of checking in voters. Waterville City Clerk Patti Dubois said the provisional voting process for those who forget their ID would be complicated and time-consuming for clerks during an already busy time in the days after the election.

Others said Voter ID laws disenfranchise poor and minority voters, and pointed out that the Office of Government Accountability in a 2014 report calculated that voter ID laws reduce voter turnout by up to 3 percent.

“I can’t for the life of me understand that this leads to voter suppression,” Ward said. “This protects the sacred right to vote, by ensuring that every vote is legitimate.”

The votes fell along party lines with Democratic Reps. Erin Herbig of Belfast and Stanley Paige Ziegler of Montville voting against the bill and Republican Reps. James Gillway of Searsport, MaryAnne Kinney of Knox and Ward voting for it. Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Waldo County, also voted in favor of the bill.