It is vitally important to protect the integrity of the electoral process, and even a small amount of fraud is too much. As any number of recent elections have shown, it only takes a few votes to tip the balance.

That said, before we take steps to fix a problem, we ought to know what the problem is. A bill that would require voters to produce a photo ID before casting a ballot has gotten the process backward.

In itself, there is nothing wrong with requiring a voter to identify himself at the polls. But when you demand a certain kind of identity card, you have to accept that some people will not be able to vote. There are elderly people, for instance, who don’t have driver’s licenses or passports, who may not have anyone to take them to city hall or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and who would be effectively disenfranchised.

If there is a serious problem with voter fraud, losing those voters may be an acceptable cost to ensure the integrity of the results, but what is the evidence of fraud in Maine and what form does it take?

Legal records point to a single case in 30 years, but that could just mean that no one has looked hard enough. Proponents of this legislation offer only a gut feeling that it must be happening. Weighed against the cost of disenfranchising even a small number of voters — enough to tip a close race — that’s not good enough.

A better approach would be to adequately fund an investigation of fraud allegations to better understand what is really happening at the polls. If, for instance, it could be proved that campaigns were fraudulently turning in absentee ballots, as is sometimes alleged, safeguards could be put in place. If it was determined that temporary residents, such as college students, were voting in more than one state in the same election, they could be prosecuted, sending a message to others that such behavior is illegal.


Early voting through no-excuse absentee balloting may be the source of questionable votes and it could be made more difficult.

If at the end of the study it was determined that the problem is so widespread that only a universal photo ID requirement would secure honest elections, then such a move would be appropriate, even if it suppressed turnout.

But until that case has been proven, no one’s vote should be taken away.


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