President Donald Trump greets former governor Paul LePage after exiting Air Force One at Bangor International Airport on Friday. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — President Donald Trump’s campaign has praised Maine’s relatively liberal voting system in court, making strange bedfellows with top Democratic officials as both are opposing a lawsuit from advocates for seniors who want more flexible options.

The Alliance of Retired Americans is asking a Superior Court judge in Augusta to order Maine to let voters to electronically submit voter registration cards and accept absentee ballots postmarked on Election Day. It also wants Maine to cover the postage for absentee ballots, saying the state’s current laws are too burdensome during the coronavirus pandemic.

Maine has a tradition of accessible voting. It is one of 19 states that allows same-day registration for new voters. It is among 29 states that allow no-excuse absentee voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Five other states conduct all-mail elections, meaning ballots are mailed to all voters instead of requested by voters as in Maine.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states. The Republican president’s re-election campaign — which has prioritized Maine — has intervened in others including New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. The president makes debunked claims about high rates of mail voting fraud. This week, he asked North Carolina supporters to vote by mail and in person to test the system, which would constitute voter fraud if done intentionally.

But in some instances, the campaign is allied with states who are resisting the changes sought by voting advocates. That is the case in Maine, where Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Attorney General Aaron Frey, both Democrats, have clashed with Trump over elections before. Spokespeople for both of them declined comment on pending litigation.

Dunlap sued the president in federal court over working papers from a now-defunct voter fraud commission that the secretary of state sat on, while. Frey recently joined multi-state litigation against the U.S. Postal Service over service changes that have led to reports of mail delays and concerns about the system’s reliability ahead of the November election.

In a filing, Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner, representing Dunlap, said a high percent of registered voters coupled with a lack of coronavirus cases linked to voting in the July primary shows the state “was prepared then, and it remains prepared now, to administer an election in which all Mainers have ample opportunity to safely exercise their right to vote.”

The Trump campaign — along with the Republican Party of Maine, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee — praised Maine’s voting system Tuesday when it requested to intervene, which was first reported by the news arm of the progressive Maine’s People Alliance.

Trump campaign lawyer Patrick Strawbridge pointed to Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order that gave town clerks more time to process elections and extended the deadline for voter registration by mail by six days. Trump has clashed publicly with the Democratic governor before, calling her a “dictator” on a June visit to Maine over her economic reopening strategy.

“Indeed, Maine is so accommodating that plaintiffs find themselves challenging alternative means to alternative means of registration and voting as burdensome on the right to vote,” Strawbridge wrote.

Lisa Cutler, spokesperson for the Alliance for Retired Americans, said there “generally seems to be a resistance to recognizing that the pandemic has really changed things” for voters, particularly those who are medically vulnerable. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and Maine Conservation Voters backed the lawsuit this week.

However, Cutler shied from drawing commonalities between Republicans and states’ resistances, noting that election law varies across states.

“I wouldn’t want to lump in those concerns,” she said.

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