PORTLAND – Don’t be surprised if you get to the polls on voting day in 2012 and find that you cannot vote. You are not registered!

“Why?” you ask. The recent enactment of the law that prohibits residents from registering to vote within two business days before an election is most likely the culprit.

If you moved, changed your name, or your name was purged from the voting list as a result of updating those lists, you need to re-register. Many Maine residents are not aware of this requirement, and they will lose one of their most sacred rights — the right to vote.

In my opinion, the prohibition on registration of voters on Election Day and on the two previous business days (Friday and Monday before the election), reflects the lack of trust in Maine people that supporters of this prohibition represent.

It also reflects a lack of concern for residents who are so caught up in the demands of daily life, physically impaired or elderly that they are unable to register to vote based on the arbitrary change to the registration timetable.

To me, Maine people, for the most part, are honest, hard-working, and enthusiastic about Maine. They should not be denied the opportunity to register to vote simply because the secretary of state found one example of voter fraud in 2002. Our young people, who will be our future leaders, should be encouraged to vote and inspire others to take part in elections.

How does placing restrictions and prohibitions on registering to vote create jobs, generate new businesses and business expansions, create greater accessibility to higher education, and provide health care coverage for 40,000 uninsured Mainers? These are the issues that we should spend time on in the Legislature.

During this past year, we have seen several nations convulsed in revolution and the populace demanding the right to vote in free democratic elections.

While this movement is gaining momentum around the world, Maine is going in the opposite direction of placing obstacles to voting.

I believe participatory democracy is the key to a healthy society, and government should make voting as accessible as possible to all residents. This is the reason I opposed this bill in the Legislature.

The prohibition in the voter registration law hurts far more Maine residents than new residents registering for the first time in Maine. Many Maine residents believe that once they have registered to vote, they do not have to register again. However, every time a resident moves from one town to another or changes his or her name, he or she must re-register to vote.

Thousands of elderly and disabled residents could be disenfranchised by this law when they move in with their children, move to a nursing home, rehabilitation center, or elderly housing, or move to a smaller and more convenient residence with lower property taxes.

For those people whose names were wrongly purged from voting lists and never notified, they will be turned away at the voting booth. An elderly person who moved and did not understand that he or she had to re-register to vote will be prohibited from voting. Is this fair?

Most people have so many responsibilities that they often forget to register their vehicle, get vehicle inspections, and pay certain bills, let alone register to vote. At least with vehicle registration, there is a 30-day grace period.

A vehicle owner generally has 24 hours to get an inspection when stopped for an expired inspection sticker. Often times, a resident has 30 days beyond the due date in some bills to make the payments.

But now, unlike these second-chance measures, voters have no leeway when it comes to registering to vote during the five-day period (Friday through Tuesday) before and including Election Day.

The latest efforts by the secretary of state to justify the prohibition against voter registration lack any compelling basis. In fact, only one case of voter fraud has been found, out of 500 that were investigated.

This case occurred in 2002, and the law has been changed to prevent a reoccurrence.

The issue of voter fraud has generated all kinds of smoke, but no fire. Maine elections are “cleaner” than those of most other states, and voter fraud is so negligible that it does not justify disenfranchising thousands of Maine people.

This action against Maine people puts politics before people.

– Special to the Press Herald