AUGUSTA – Arguments about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Maine have raged all summer and will culminate with a statewide referendum Nov. 8 on the law passed in June to eliminate same-day voter registration, which has been allowed for 38 years.

A flap over a GOP news release last week criticizing 19 voters who registered in 2004 using a hotel address initially generated speculation that they were homeless voters. (It later became apparent that they were medical students who left Grand Cayman Island because of a hurricane.)

As it turns out, everyone apparently agrees that homeless Mainers deserve the right to vote.

“I don’t think that’s an issue. I think homeless people should be able to vote. I think people who are living in a homeless shelter should be able to vote,” said Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party and the most vociferous supporter of the law to eliminate same-day voter registration.

That’s welcome news to Donna Yellen, advocacy director for Preble Street, a Portland-based nonprofit, and director of the Maine Hunger Initiative.

Yellen said Preble Street Homeless Voices for Justice has been registering homeless people to vote for more than 15 years.

“The people that we register to vote are homeless Mainers and they don’t have any kind of traditional address,” she said.

“But the right to vote is arguably most important when you are homeless, because at that point you have lost practically everything, but you never have lost your right to vote, and the voting booth knows no bias,” Yellen said.

She recalled taking a man who had been homeless for years to vote. He emerged from the voting booth, gave her two thumbs up and said, “I’m part of it now.”

“Voting is so important, especially for the people we see, the people who are marginalized,” Yellen said. “They’ve lost more than their homes and possessions; homelessness destroys the spirit, and voting restores it. It reconnects people to the community.”


Gov. Paul LePage gave a less-than-enthusiastic response to President Obama’s outline of a jobs plan last week.

On Thursday, Obama announced a $447 billion plan to try once again to stimulate the economy.

“To be very honest, he’s been president for three years,” said LePage, a Republican. “I have yet to hear anything that was going to work, and last night was no different.”


Like all retirement funds, the Maine Public Employees Retirement System is riding the ups and downs of the stock market. At a board of trustees meeting last week, Chief Investment Officer Andrew Sawyer talked about the “manic depressive” cycle that keeps everyone guessing.

“My reaction every day is, ‘Oh my gosh,’” he said. “The next day, I run out into the streets firing my gun. ‘We’ve won the war!’“

Sawyer, who apparently monitors CNBC for updated financial news, noted that the network seems to have “a deal going with people selling gold and life insurance.”

For the record, numbers from August show retirement system investments down 4.2 percent, leaving a fund balance of $10.2 billion.


Attention political junkies: the C-SPAN Campaign 2012 bus will be open for tours from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday in front of the University of Maine at Augusta’s Randall Student Center.

The bus is making the rounds to schools, libraries and “major political events” to highlight its public affairs event coverage, Web offerings, social media connections and trivia on the three branches of government.

MaineToday Media State House Writers Rebekah Metzler and Susan Cover contributed to this column.


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