Shenna Bellows

Shenna Bellows

State Senator

Why should you be Secretary of State?

Long before I ever ran for office, I worked professionally on voting rights, driver license policy and the public right to know. I’ve built strong teams and bipartisan coalitions – always with one goal – to strengthen democracy and advance justice. As Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine from 2005 to 2011, I was at the forefront of voting rights and driver's license policy debates to expand voting rights and protect privacy. I co-chaired the 2011 Protect Maine Votes Campaign to save same day voter registration in Maine. As current Executive Director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, a member organization of Maine Museums & Archives, I work to preserve and promote archival materials related to the Holocaust.

No one will work harder as a partner with the Maine Legislature to provide superior constituent services to the people of Maine, improve our technology and security, recruit and retain good leadership within the bureaus, balance the Department budget and advance voting rights and privacy.


Do you support the establishment of an online voter registration system in Maine?

Yes

Ideally, online voter registration would go hand in hand with implementation of automatic voter registration. We should be building any new systems with a goal of making it easier for the public to use. When more people register to vote, more people vote. Additionally, this is an example of where an upfront investment could save the state significant money. While this is ultimately a policy decision by the Legislature, it is one that I support.


Do you support Maine joining the Electronic Registration Information System (ERIC)? More information about ERIC can be found here: https://ericstates.org/

Yes

I recognize that this is a question of cost and staffing. I'm also mindful of the lessons learned from the failed Crosscheck system. It's important to guard against unlawful voter purging. At the same time, more accurate voter rolls improve efficiency and public trust in our elections. I applaud the design and administration of ERIC, and I would support joining the system with a goal of promoting accuracy and trust in the voter rolls, contingent on budget approval by the legislature.


As a way to lower or eliminate barriers to voting, do you support providing pre-paid postage for mail-in ballots?

Yes

I support the policy 100% contingent on approval by the legislature. Multiplying the voter registration totals reported publicly by the Secretary of State by the cost of a first-class stamp (55 cents) yields a cost of about $585,000 to provide pre-paid postage for mail-in ballots if a ballot was mailed to every voter. One way to offset this cost would be for the legislature to follow the Colorado model and eliminate the requirement of ballot requests and instead implement universal mailed-out ballots. It would reduce printing costs, processing time, and overall postage costs. Colorado has actually reduced its cost per vote. We need to be pragmatic and think both about the reform and the budgetary impact.


Once the leader in voter turnout, Maine is losing ground to states like Colorado that have modernized and made continuous improvements to their election systems. How will you help modernize Maine's election systems to better meet the needs of voters?

I believe practical implementation of automatic voter registration and ideally online voter registration would be a big step forward. Imagine if we registered every 18 year old and new naturalized citizen automatically! Every town should have a ballot dropbox. The Colorado model includes several exciting options including a universal mailed-out ballot and early voting rather than absentee voting. Voters have a choice: they can return the ballot in the mail, drop it off at a dropbox or choose instead to vote in person. In 2020, they achieved 87% turnout while cutting the cost per vote significantly. This would require a partnership with the Legislature and an analysis with the elections staff and the clerks' association about what the staffing and upfront costs would be in order to ensure that any new reform is implemented smoothly and cost effectively. We need to make it easier, not harder to vote. I also believe post-election audits are important to increasing public confidence and trust in our elections.


What reforms do you think are needed, if any, at the Department of the Secretary of State and how will you include black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) voices in these decisions?

Secretary Dunlap has done an extraordinary job with strong public communications and outstanding responsiveness to legislators and the public. He has identified that technology modernization of systems including the central voter registration system and driver's license system will be a top priority for the next Secretary of State. Any investments in new technology need to be user-centered and inclusive of black, indigenous and people of color. Racial equity needs to be built into new systems. That also applies to representation of black, indigenous and people of color in recruitment and hiring. In an agency of over 400 people, this focus could be transformative. Anti-bias education should be a strong component of professional development for management and front-line staff. When testifying on bills before the legislature, I think the Secretary of State should include a perspective on whether the bill will advance racial equity in the Office of Secretary of State as a matter of form.


Would you like to add anything else?

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles serves every adult Mainer on an annual basis. With over 300 employees, this is an extraordinarily important aspect of the Office of Secretary of State, and there are some looming logistics challenges including addressing the backlog due to COVID-19 and making sure the public understands REAL ID as the federal government moves forward with a hard deadline for compliance. There are equity issues that arise in who can access identification or a driver's license easily, and we have an opportunity to look at motor vehicles infractions to reduce the criminalization of poor people. Having managed an agency of more than 100 employees, I will be ready on Day 1 to meet these challenges.