ELLSWORTH — Real ID implementation and election security were among the topics that Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap touched on in addressing members of the Rotary Club of Ellsworth this week.
“I’m not a Rotarian, they actually have high standards in Old Town,” Dunlap said jokingly, before thanking the group for letting him speak.
Dunlap first addressed concerns over Maine’s compliance with the Real ID Act.
“Everybody gets scared when they see these outdated signs at the airport saying you can’t use your driver’s license,” Dunlap said. “We’re under a waiver right now that is good until October 10. It’ll be extended because we’re meeting all the benchmarks. There’s a lot of technology involved, so this is going to cost about $2 million to do this.”
Dunlap explained that the new Real IDs would use facial recognition technology to identify individuals, and the state would begin producing them in July 2019. Dunlap also addressed privacy concerns regarding the IDs.
“All your documents, like your birth certificate, your passport, anything that you use to prove you’re an American citizen, they’re going to be merged in a database,” Dunlap said. “Now if this is scaring you, then you can opt out, but if you’re going to travel in the U.S., you’re going to need a passport.”
Dunlap anticipated that the Real IDs would be implemented in 2021, and also explained that Maine residents would have to update their driver’s licenses in the coming years to become compliant with Real ID.
“That’s going to be a logistical challenge,” Dunlap said. “But we’re going to try and make it easier for you. Cost-wise, we’re going to set up a plan that’s financially digestible.”
On the subject of ranked choice voting, Dunlap explained why it won’t be used in the upcoming election for governor.
Dunlap relayed the story of Maine’s 1879 election, when doubts about the legitimacy of the election were serious enough that political parties formed militias to march on the State House.
This prompted Maine’s legislature to insert the word “plurality” into language in the state’s constitution regarding elections. Because of that, ranked choice voting could be considered unconstitutional for state elections. Dunlap explained that it will continue to be used for primaries and for federal elections.
Dunlap also addressed questions from the crowd on security for the upcoming election.
“There’s no way anyone can change our results, no way they can actually invade a vote and change it,” Dunlap said. “We don’t have the voting machines that some districts have; we don’t have forward-facing poll books, so our vulnerabilities are quite small, because you can’t hack a felt pen on a paper ballot.”
Dunlap explained that Maine’s machines used for tabulating votes are standalone and not connected to outside networks. He also stated that voter rolls were backed up every day by town clerks, in order to reduce vulnerabilities to hacking.
Dunlap did have some disappointing news for the Rotarians. When asked if the popular television program “North Woods Law” would return, Dunlap said lack of resources meant the show was likely on hiatus indefinitely.