Unlike their counterparts in Washington, the members of the Maine Legislature will usually choose to solve a problem instead of create one.

That good tendency was on display this week when the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee voted to table a bill that would have required voters to show a photo ID when they go to the polls. It was the best non-move of the young legislative session and deserving of praise. There is talk on the committee of turning the bill into a study of Maine’s electoral system to determine if it is subject to fraud. That would be a good move as well.

Ever since the Republicans took over the House, Senate and governor’s office, we have been hearing proposals for tightening up voting practices. It was behind the misguided attempt to get rid of Election Day registration, which squeaked through the Legislature on a party line vote and was overwhelmingly overturned at the polls by voters in a people’s veto.

This is part of a national agenda that appears to be driven by a desire to suppress voting among groups such as college students, minorities and low-income elderly who tend to vote for Democrats. Republicans say they are not trying to discourage legitimate voters, but want to protect the system from fraud. That would be a reasonable position if they had one thing: proof there is a problem that needs fixing.

The position becomes unreasonable when you consider that some people who are eligible to vote won’t be able to, and there may be many more of them than ineligible people who would be able to cast a ballot. We say “may” be because we don’t know.

Despite investigations by Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a Republican, we have not seen any credible evidence to indicate that Maine has a voter fraud problem than needs fixing. Before charging ahead with a solution, Maine lawmakers ought to know what the problem is.

Supporters of voter ID laws say that you have to show identification to get on an airplane or cash a check, and voting is much more important than those activities. But because it’s so important, lawmakers should not casually make changes to the laws unless they can prove that doing so would make things better instead of worse.

Leave meaningless ideological battles to Congress. The Maine Legislature should focus its efforts on coming together to solve the real problems we face.


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