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Absentee voting remains one of the easiest and most effective ways for Mainers to participate in the democratic process. This voting method allows all eligible voters to cast a ballot outside a polling place once they request a ballot, which is delivered to them via postal mail. During the 2022 midterm election, at least 250,000 Mainers voted absentee.

Now lawmakers are looking to strengthen this democratic jewel with a new legislative bill that would allow all registered voters to sign up to automatically receive an absentee ballot in the mail each election. Senator Mattie Daughtry of Cumberland recently introduced LD1690: An Act Regarding Ongoing Absentee Voting and Tracking of Absentee Ballots.

This bill would:

  • Make all Maine voters eligible to receive their absentee ballot in the mail each election automatically without having to request one each time they vote.

  • Allow all Maine voters who sign up to receive an absentee ballot each election the abililty to track their ballot electronically once it is sent out to them.

  • Require the Secretary of State to notify all voters who sign up for this program when their ballot has been sent, when their clerk receives their ballot, if their clerk finds a problem with their ballot, if the voter hasn’t returned their ballot in a timely fashion, and when their ballot is cast.

This measure would bolster absentee voting across the state, and encourage civic engagement during election season as advocates continue to push for a permanent list in Maine. We look forward to seeing the passage of LD1690 in the near future.

Visit the state of Maine’s website to learn more about absentee voting.

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In Maine, our hard working healthcare workers play a critical role in ensuring that our families and communities remain healthy and safe. During the toughest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of these Mainers stepped up to curb the spread of the virus.

The bulk of these health care practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) and nursing assistants, who make up roughly half of the healthcare occupation in Maine hospitals. Despite their essential role in the healthcare sector, many are often forced to go toe-to-toe with hospital executives in order to prove their worth.

Reports indicate that in recent years, Maine hospitals have paid their chief executives more than the national average. Now, lawmakers seek to address this disparity in compensation.

Senator Tipping of Penobscot recently introduced LD 1321: An Act to Address Income Disparity in Health Care by Limiting the Compensation of Hospital Executives. The bill would essentially limit the total annual compensation for an executive at a hospital to no more than five times the median compensation of a full-time registered professional nurse at that hospital.

Proponents of the bill say that funds from excess compensation to chief executives are needed elsewhere to improve conditions for nurses and other hospital staff.

All working people deserve fair compensation and working conditions, including those who work everyday to keep Mainers healthy. LD 1321 would lessen the income gap in Maine hospitals and strengthen the healthcare sector in the process. Mainers For Working Families looks forward to seeing the passage of this bill.

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Mainers For Working Families announced that over 130 healthcare professionals from across the state have signed on to a letter calling on the Maine Legislature to pass a statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) program. In Bangor, and Portland, doctors, legislators, and activists came together to urge the Legislature to pass this critical policy.

“As health professionals, we swore an oath to take care of our patients: aiding them when they’re sick, alleviating pain where we can, and promoting good health. The current system of unpaid leave creates undue stress and burden on patients seeking care as well as their loved ones who often act as caretakers,” the letter states. “This is why we support the creation of a Paid Family and Medical Leave program in Maine.”

The Paid Family Leave Commission issued its final report to the Labor and Housing Committee last month, unanimously recommending a PFML policy that would allow most Maine workers to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave each year to care for themselves or a family member.

“Too often, our patients are forced to delay or deny themselves care because they can’t afford to take the time off. When each paycheck means the difference between having a full plate of food or not, or heating their home or not, oftentimes their health is forced to the back burner,” said Dr. Noah Nesin, a family physician who’s worked in Maine for 36 years.

“Sixty percent of Mainers live in rural communities where it takes one hour to be able to access preventative care; it’s hours if you’re looking for hospital-based care,” said Sen. Mattie Daughtry. “I can’t think of a group that’s better aware of what a big deal Paid Family & Medical Leave would be for the state of Maine than our doctors, physicians, and all our healthcare practitioners. They see every single day what it means when people delay their health care… and see those ramifications of putting off care.” Watch Sen. Mattie discuss this critical policy!

“As a doctor, I know how vital it is for people to have protections to care for themselves or their family members,” said Dr. Brendan Prast, family physician and Chair of Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare. “It does not matter what your health is like – we will all get sick, and we will all need care. It is extraordinarily wrong to force people to choose between work or the health of themselves, or their families.”

“The burden of unpaid care isn’t just financial,” said Destie Hohman Sprague, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby. “For as long as people don’t have access to [Paid Family & Medical Leave], we’re saying it’s okay for families to struggle with their finances, to struggle with mental health, to not have the time to provide the care that their families need and deserve.”

“Nearly seventy percent of our patients are struggling financially,” said Sean Whiting, Director of Data and Operations at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We hear about their struggles to take care of their families and their health every day. Beyond all else, Paid Family & Medical Leave is an equity issue. Given the reality… that women are more likely to leave the workforce than men due to essential caregiving responsibilities, Paid Family & Medical Leave in Maine is an incredibly important goal in the fight for gender and racial equity in our state.”

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