AUGUSTA — Maine has one of the most unsecure voter registrations in the country. It is lax, it is error-prone and it leaves room for much vulnerability. To correct this, the Maine Legislature wisely passed a law that seeks a ban on voter registration for two days prior to Election Day.
The repeal of that law should be rejected by voters this Nov. 8. Voting no on Question 1 is common sense when it comes to protecting your vote and the votes of thousands on this coming Election Day and Election Days to come.
Unfortunately, on October 30, The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram published an editorial promoting a yes vote on Question 1 on Nov. 8. The editorial mocked the law Maine’s Legislature passed last session and misled readers into thinking Maine’s system is just fine the way it is, despite proof it is not.
First, when a voter registers on Election Day, there simply is not enough time to verify his or her identity or residency status. As former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said on a radio program recently, “If you hang around a town office on Election Day, they’re not going to be inspecting voter registrations.” Proof we have a problem. Clerks need time to verify information, which they simply do not have on Election Day. Forty-one states do not allow Election Day registration.
That’s 93 percent of American voters. Even “blue” states such as California, New York and Massachusetts require a voter to register prior to Election Day. When the Press Herald/Telegram claims the “No” campaign is part of a national effort to suppress voter registration, do they mean to say voters in 41 other states are suppressed or disenfranchised? These states, unlike Maine, have identified vulnerabilities and are truly protecting what is the foundation of our democracy: secure elections.
Second, we do have problems with our election system here in Maine. A recent report by the Maine Heritage Policy Center indicates several problems. For instance, in three of the last 10 general elections, there were more registered voters than voting-age citizens in Maine; 178,000 registered voters are shown to have registered to vote on January 1, 1850; there was an eighty-four percent error rate in registrations recently reviewed by the Secretary of State’s Office; 1,452 active registrants are listed as being 211 years old; and 2,209 active registrants are listed as having no street address. These errors are unacceptable.
The MHPC report also notes that Election Day voter registration has had no perceptible impact on voter turnout levels. In fact, Maine’s three lowest years of voter turnout in the last 50 years have occurred since Election Day registration was implemented in 1973.
Finally, whether or not you believe there is fraud occurring in our elections, we must take a look at the convenience factor of Election Day registration. Are we to sacrifice the integrity of our elections for the convenience of registering on Election Day? Especially considering a voter can register prior to Election Day and fill out an absentee ballot at the same time so he or she does not have to make a second trip to the voting booth on Election Day itself. One-stop shopping.
MaineToday Media is sorely mistaken in urging people to vote yes on Question 1. If a car is speeding on the Maine Turnpike but no State Troopers are on the turnpike to spot it, does that mean no one is breaking the law? No, just because only one firm case of fraud was found in the Secretary of State’s quick and small review does not mean there are not other cases. Maine’s election system is ripe for fraud, and the Press Herald/Telegram should know that.
Without question, Election Day registration leaves our votes vulnerable to fraud and error. Maine’s election system runs on the honor system. All we have to ensure the integrity of our elections is, basically, luck. Mainers deserve to know their votes are secure and that ineligible voters are not cancelling their votes out. One ineligible vote is one too many.
Changing Election Day registration in order to provide opportunity to verify a new voter’s legitimacy is just common sense. In California, clerks get two weeks; in Massachusetts, 20 days and New York, 25 days. We’re only asking for two. If that makes sense to you, vote no on Question 1.
— Special to the Press Herald