PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Leaders of the effort to end Election Day voter registration are defending a television ad produced and paid for by an out of state group... even though some admit they don't understand the wording. The advertisement is the first by the No on One campaign. The other side of the issue-the groups that want to keep Election Day registration- are criticizing the commercial, calling it an effort to mislead voters. The actual issue in the Question One referendum is whether Maine should continue to allow people to register to vote on Election Day. A yes vote keeps Election Day registration, a no vote ends it. The Republican majority in the Legislature passed the law to end election day registration, but a peoples veto petition forced it to the Nov. 8 referendum.
The No on One commercial, however, uses the words "election ethics", not Election Day voter registration. That's what prompted David Farmer of Yes on One to accuse his opponents of they're trying to confuse voters. Farmer also claims "some of the same people who want to eliminate same day registration also want to eliminate Maine's clean elections law".
Leaders of the No on One campaign say they had nothing to do with creation of the TV ad. Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster says a conservative group from out of state-which he did not name-produced the ad and paid for the television time to air it. Webster says the campaign was unable to raise enough money in-state, and put the word out nationally it needed financial help. The un-named group got involved, says Webster, because it saw that the people's veto effort was dominated by "left of center" political groups. But Webster says to his knowledge, no one in Maine was involved or consulted in creation of the ad itself.
Lance Dutson of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center says the ad's message is legitimate. Dutson says the Yes campaign received substantial money from out of state labor unions and from Donald Sussman, the husband of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Dutson claims Sussman's residency is unclear, but the Town Clerk in North Haven says Sussman is a registered voter in that town. When asked about the ad's reference to election ethics instead of Election Day voter registration, Dutson said "Ethics laws are a kind of broad swath of what people talk about in terms of elections"
The man named as the leader of the No on One campaign says the whole controversy has "deflected" attention from what he sees as the real issue of the campaign. Chris Tyll says when the campaign was short on money out of state political groups became interested in helping. "Unfortunately", says Tyll, "with the money come restrictions or messaging rights people want. And as I said before right, wrong or indifferent that's the system we live in." Tyll said he does not yet know the exact source of the money to create the ad. He says the real issue of the campaign should be ensuring Maine's voter registration and voting system is secure.