Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By JOHN FRARY
FARMINGTON — Now that regulatory reform (L.D. 1) and the fiscal 2012-13 budget have passed, those of us with a taste for political drama must rely on the people's veto drive for entertainment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Frary of Farmingtonis a retired professor of history.
The progressive base of Maine's Democratic Party may not be entirely happy with L.D. 1 and the budget, but the first passed the Senate without dissent and the second passed with a bipartisan super-majority. Attacking them could result in collateral damage to Democrats, so their energies are better directed against L.D. 1376, a purely Republican bill.
It's No. 4 out of the 25 sections in this legislation that the veto drive means to overturn. It sets the deadline for in-person registration on the third business day before Election Day – normally a Thursday.
There are two arguments in support of this provision: First, that the town clerks in some jurisdictions are overwhelmed by the Election Day influx; second, that this sudden influx makes it difficult to determine whether the voters are legitimate.
A coalition of "progressive" groups (there are no actual liberals in Maine any more, only progressives) has gathered to overturn this provision. These groups are all nonpartisan.
Cynics dispute this, pointing out for example that Engage Maine's executive director, Ben Dudley, is a former chairman of the Maine Democratic Party. They are wrong. Engage Maine is a nonpartisan group. It says so right on its website. Its central argument articulated by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters President Barbara McDade is that same-day registration is "a critically important issue that is fundamental to our democracy."
It may not be immediately obvious why registering on Thursday is less fundamental to American democracy. The explanation is that this creates "unnecessary hurdles to young, elderly and disabled voters."
It's true that elderly voters (that would be me) will be five days older on the following Tuesday, but on the other hand, young voters would be less young and the handicapped (that would be me as well, and I've got one of those decals to prove it) aren't likely to be significantly more handicapped. It seems to balance out pretty evenly.
It's only fair to mention that Jesse Jackson has warned of a nationwide Republican effort to repress voting, especially by minorities. Given the scarcity of black folks in Maine, this hardly seems worth the effort by those wicked Republicans. All the same, it's important to pay attention to the sincerest politician ever to live in Chicago, Ill.
If L.D. 1376 survives the people's veto drive, it will be interesting to see if there is a significant decline in voter turnout. If there is not, we won't hear it from the coalition participants. They will have moved on to some other urgent issue.
Will it survive? The opponents have 90 days after the Legislature's adjournment to gather the necessary 58,000 signatures. The extremely nonpartisan Maine Peoples Alliance claims 32,000 members, so it should be easy enough to get them all to sign the petition and for each of them to find one other person to sign as well. If they don't, we may begin to doubt their membership claims.
Assuming the veto gets on the ballot, what are the chances of passage in November? The evidence is not encouraging. Some wealthy liberals managed to get same-day registration referendums on the ballot in Colorado and California a while ago. It didn't get even 40 percent of the vote in Colorado and went down by a 59 percent vote in California. The liberal Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Denver Post all editorialized against it.
California's Democratic governor opposed it on the grounds that voters going to the polls ought to have a minimum amount of information about what they are voting on.
The governor's reaction was surprising. Progressive Democrats normally advocate maximizing the number of voters down to the last dimwit, ignoramus, felon, dipsomaniac, vagrant and gibbering lunatic of voting age.
There is, in fact, a progressive organization (a point of clarification: It's all right for billionaires, editors and voters to be liberal, but politicians are only allowed to be progressive. I don't know why that's the rule, but it is) advocating lowering the voting age to 16 (www.youthrights.org). And there are those who think 13 is a suitable age (speakout.com).
And why not, if maximizing turnout is your goal? Those advocating votes for pimpled tadpoles offer a 10-point argument. The sixth of them mentions increasing voter turnout and the seventh point is that if we allow stupid adults to vote, why not smart 16-year-olds?
I see no flaw in this argument – if one grants the progressives' premises that registering a few days early is beyond the capability of ordinary Americans.
- Special to The Press Herald