NEWCASTLE – Maine is a state full of trusting people. It is not unusual, when driving along the rural roads of this state, to find a road-side vegetable stand with no one in attendance and a sign on a cigar box — with money in it — that says, “Make your own change.”

We trust other people just as we expect them to trust us.

But we are also a people of common sense. You won’t find that kind of honor-system cash register at any larger retail establishments — and for obvious reasons — the risk is simply too great. It is just plain common sense to have a locked cash register.

There is one area, however, where Maine people may be a little too trusting and perhaps a bit naive.

That is our voter registration system. Our current system is one of the least secure in the country and the consequences for such a lax system could be far-reaching.

In Maine, anyone can register to vote up to and including on Election Day with no more identification than a cable TV bill or a government check.

When a complete stranger walks in to the town hall on Election Day with no photo ID, no Social Security card and only a bill with a name on it, that person’s true identity and residence should be checked — but there is no time to do that in Maine.

That person can register and vote within minutes of the polls closing and, in some cases, sway an entire election.

Most states understand this problem and close voter registration weeks before Election Day. Only a handful of states have Election Day voter registration, and most of those states require a photo ID.

As voter fraud becomes more widespread across the country, states are tightening their election laws.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states now ask voters to show photo identification at the polls or have passed laws to do so. Others states are considering it.

And no states at all are considering weakening their laws to the level of Maine’s in order to achieve “high voter turn-out.”

This past legislative session, a bill that would prohibit registering to vote on Election Day or within two business days before that day passed both the House and the Senate and was signed by the governor.

Unfortunately, before that bill could become law, several special-interest groups got enough signatures for a people’s veto.

Now it will be up to the people of this state to decide whether we should keep this new law or continue to have one of the most unrestricted and insecure voter systems in the country.

Those in favor of the status quo are howling in protest, “Thousands will be disenfranchised,” they say. This is simply not true. It is a fabrication. No one will be “disenfranchised.” Every new voter will have ample opportunity to register and to vote. Here’s why:

New voters will continue to have around 240 business days out of the year to register to vote. They will be able to register at their town hall, by mail, at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles or at any state social services agency.

For students, the Division of Elections provides voter registration applications to 17- and 18-year-old students every fall. A 17-year-old can register before Election Day if he or she is going to be 18 on or before that day.

Those who want to vote early can register and vote on the same day.

Also, Maine law requires municipal clerks to visit all licensed nursing homes and residential care facilities in the 30 days before Election Day.

Mainers are a trusting bunch — but we also have common sense. For something this important let’s use that common sense and, as President Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust but verify.”

Vote “no” on Question 1 this November — and protect the integrity of Maine’s election system.

– Special to the Press Herald