VLA Committee: Campaign Finance & Video Recording at the Polls

LD 904 (An Act To Increase Fairness in Campaign Financing)

LD 904 was addressed in a work session of the VLA Committee on February 17.

Current law (Sec. 1. 21-A MRSA §1015, sub-§1,) allows candidates for governor to collect $1,500 per donor per election. Party candidates, even when they’re unopposed, can collect the $1,500 in both the primary and general election, for a total of $3,000 per election cycle. Independent candidates, because they have no primary race, can get only the $1,500 in the general election. When Eliot Cutler ran for governor in 2014 as an independent, some of his supporters challenged the law and won. So the standing law has been struck down, and the VLA Committee and the Ethics Commission are working to come up with a repair. This bill was carried over from the first session, when they could not agree on a solution.

Rep. Luchini introduced an amendment to the bill and the Committee quickly voted.

Result:

Result: Divided Report with majority voting OTP-A. Rep. Dillingham voted ONTP.

The amendment will stipulate:

  • Separate accounts for primary and general elections. Candidates designate into which account donations go. If a candidate runs unopposed in the primary, they can only collect the maximum of $1,500 per donor.
  • Unspent primary dollars can be carried forward to the general election, but only to the extent they don’t exceed individual contribution limits. Campaigns must designate which dollars/donations were spent on the primary and which are to be carried forward into the general election.
  • March 15th established as the date to determine whether or not the candidate is running opposed or unopposed.
  • Candidates can “double raise” prior to March 15 and designate into two accounts, primary and general. This means that they can raise up to $3,000 per donor prior to March 15, splitting the money between their primary account and their general account.
  • If running unopposed as of March 15, the primary election account converts to the general election account. “Double Max” donations must be returned to the donor in excess of one election’s maximum contribution. This means that if a donor gave only $1,500 and that money was deposited in their primary account, they can roll it into their general account. But if a donor gave more than $1,500, they can only keep $1,500 in their general account and must return the rest.

 

LD 1574 (An Act to Protect Maine Voters from Intimidating Videotaping at the Polls)

The VLA Committee also addressed an amendment to LD 1574. (Read our coverage of the public hearing on this bill) The amendment “replaces the word videotaping with the word video recording. It also clarifies that video recording a voter in violation of the 15 foot buffer established by the bill may result in the person being removed from the voting place at the direction of the warden.”

The result is that anyone wanting to record video at the polls must do so from outside a designated barrier or at least fifteen feet away from signature-gathering activities taking place at the polls. The pertinent language, including changes, is as follows (italicized areas represent new language and scratched text represent language removed):

  • Videotaping Video recording in the voting place must be located outside the guardrail enclosure a minimum of 15 feet from a voter being videotaped recorded, including a voter at a location where a person is collecting voters’ signatures. A person who video records a voter in violation of this section may be removed from the voting place at the direction of the warden as provided in section 662, subsection 2.”
  • Outside the guardrail enclosure. If sufficient space exists, party workers and others, in addition to the pollwatchers allowed pursuant to section 627, may remain in the voting place outside the guardrail enclosure as long as they do not attempt to influence voters or interfere with their free passage. If a person attempts to influence voters or interfere with their free passage, the warden shall have the person removed from the voting place.

Result: Divided Report – with majority voting OTP-A; Reps. Turner and Dillingham voting ONTP. Rep. Bear was absent.

 

 

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