November 1, 2012

Our View: Parties should not interfere with voters

Republican fliers looking for volunteers seem to be interested in making it harder to vote.

Sometimes the key to a successful campaign is a good get-out-the-vote effort in which volunteers call and visit sympathetic voters, making sure they don't forget to cast a ballot, sometimes even offering a ride to the polls.

Androscoggin County Republicans circulated a letter looking for volunteers for their get-out-the-vote campaign, but they seem to have something else in mind.

The party is recruiting "strikers" and "challengers" who will work the polls to police previously registered voters and those who are registering on Election Day. If the goal is to prevent people from voting, it gives a whole new meaning to "get out the vote."

State Republican Party leaders say they are planning nothing different from what both parties have done in the past and they are not going to do anything that is not allowed by Maine law. But the way they have named the poll-watching positions makes it look like they are more interested in playing defense than offense and scaring people away from the polls instead of bringing them in.

Some people might ask what is wrong with that? The power of the vote is precious and deserves to be protected. But the problem is that Republicans often seem too willing to disenfranchise legitimate voters in their quest to prevent fraud. Out of millions of ballots cast, there have only been two verified cases of double voting in Maine, which hardly justifies turning eligible people away from the polls.

Last year, Republicans in the Legislature pushed through a law to end Election Day registration. It put Maine among dozens of states under Republican control that were experimenting with voter suppression.

Fortunately, Maine voters of all parties rejected the idea in a landslide people's veto referendum. A strong majority of Mainers approved the current law which makes Maine one of the easiest places to register and vote, and one among the leaders in voter participation. Republicans should focus on turning out their voters, not interfering with someone else's.


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