A sharply divided House voted June 6 to prohibit residents from registering to vote on election day.

The vote was mainly along party lines with Republicans supporting an end to the practice of same-day registration and voting, while Democrats voted to kill the bill and retain the current system.

The legislation was sponsored by Maine House Speaker Robert Nutting of Oakland. The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee recommended approval of LD 1376.

The bill eliminates registration of new voters on election day and during the two business days before election day.

The bill also prohibits the issuance of absentee ballots after the third business day before election day, except when the voter signs an application designating one of the allowable reasons for voting by absentee ballot on that day.

The House voted 74-70 for the bill. Local representatives voting for the bill to ban same-day registration and voting were Republican Reps. Wes Richardson of Warren, Dana Dow of Waldoboro, and Jonathan McKane of Newcastle. Voting against the bill were Democratic Reps. Edward Mazurek of Rockland, Chuck Kruger of Thomaston, Joan Welsh of Rockport, Andrew O’Brien of Lincolnville, and Walter Kumiega III of Deer Isle.

Nutting said in a news release that the bill will “alleviate a significant amount of the growing stress on our election system by making minor changes to registration and absentee ballot deadlines.”

“These changes will go a long way toward maintaining the integrity of our voting system, while providing an open and accessible voting process for all Mainers,” Nutting stated in the news release.

The Maine Women’s Lobby criticized the bill and another one to require photo identification to vote.

That bill, LD 199, was approved 75-69 with the division also along the same party lines.

“There are real life consequences of making it harder for Mainers to register and vote,” said Associate Director Charlotte Warren.

“Imagine a military service member who completes her service shortly before an election and returns home to Maine, not able to vote because she was not able to get to the registrar’s office in town before the deadline,” Warren said. “Imagine a busy single mom, recently moved to a new town, unable to find care for her children so she can get to the town office to register.”

Rep. Chuck Kruger sharply criticized the bill.

“This is all about voter-suppression, not fraud. Voting was on party lines. I hope the voters remember this in November 2012,” Kruger said.

Rep. Welsh said people rely on same day registration.

“There have been only two cases of fraud in the more than 30 years this privilege has been in place.  This will be a hardship on elderly voters and young, new voters who may not know they need to register ahead of time.  I’m very, very disappointed in the outcome of this vote,” Welsh said.

Kumiega said he saw no reason to change a system that has worked well for 38 years and put up an obstacle to voting.

“The most common constituent reaction to it has been “why would they want to do that?” Kumiega said.

Maine has had same-day registration and voting for 38 years.

The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.