We know this about Election Day – Mainers will show up.

In the 2016 presidential election, nearly 73 percent of Maine’s eligible voters turned out, the second-highest rate in the nation. Two years earlier, in a midterm election just like this year’s, Maine’s turnout ranked first.

Mainers vote in high numbers not only because we have a clear sense of civic duty but also because we make voting convenient for all residents. Same-day voter registration, motor voter, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, plenty of well-run polling places – Maine has it all.

In fact, a recent study that sought to measure the “time and effort” that residents of each state have to sacrifice to vote, Maine ranked as the sixth easiest. And it makes a difference – voter turnout in the five most restrictive states is, on average, 9 percentage points lower than in the five states where it’s easiest to vote.

Of course, time and effort isn’t all that matters – Maine’s status as one of the oldest states, for example, certainly doesn’t hurt, as older Americans are more likely to vote. But making voting easy plays a central role in turnout – in making sure anyone who wants to cast a ballot has an opportunity to do so.

Unfortunately, it’s getting more difficult for too many Americans.


The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave the federal government jurisdiction over local and state elections where black Americans had been robbed of their constitutional right to vote, once provided a measure of protection. But it was struck down by the Supreme Court in the 2013 ruling Shelby County v. Holder.

Since then, laws and policies have increasingly been used to suppress votes. Immediately after the Shelby ruling was announced, for instance, Texas enacted a strict voter identification law that disproportionately affects poor and often minority voters. Other states followed.

These and other laws have been touted as protections against voter fraud. But voter fraud is virtually nonexistent – and the laws in question seem to take aim at specific kinds of voters, suggesting a much different motive.

A federal court found that a voter identification law in North Carolina, in just one example, targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” In Georgia, where the Republican secretary of state is both running for governor and overseeing the election, voter-registration applications from African-Americans were disproportionately called into question for minor errors.

In addition, in the first three years after the Supreme Court decision, 868 polling places were closed, mostly in the South, and mostly where poor and minority residents vote.

In Georgia, polling places were shut down in 10 counties with large black populations. In Indiana, the Republican secretary of state removed 170 mostly Democratic precincts from the county with the largest Latino and second-largest black communities.


Poor and minority Americans predominantly vote Democratic, and they have been overwhelmingly targeted by vote-suppressing actions. That’s not an accident – election officials know that by moving a certain polling place or requiring a certain kind of identification, they can cut down on the number of votes cast by certain groups of voters.

As a result, voting rights that should be held sacrosanct are subject to political whims. That should be scary, whatever side you’re on.

Maine hasn’t been completely spared of the specter of voter suppression. But whenever it has surfaced, it’s been confidently shoved back down.

Everyone who is willing and able to cast a vote should have that opportunity. Maine gets as close to that ideal as any state – and that’s something to be proud of.

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