Voting rights have become a point of conflict nationally as 22 states have enacted laws that make it harder for their citizens to vote while a federal package of election reforms is facing a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

But here in Maine, the Legislature has passed four bills aimed at making voting more convenient and secure, attracting little conflict or attention. These reforms should add to the state’s reputation for running inclusive elections, reflected in our traditionally high voter turnout rate.

The Maine Legislature has passed these bills:

L.D. 1126, sponsored by Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, would permit Mainers to register online, joining the 40 states that already provide the service.

L.D. 1363, sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, would incorporate some of the COVID election reforms into state law, including allowing polling places to expand the use of 24 hour drop boxes for absentee ballots. It was signed into law by Gov. Mills on June 17.

L.D. 1575, sponsored by Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, would confirm that student ID’s can be used to register to vote.

L.D. 148, sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, would allow voters with disabilities and voters older than 65 to sign up to receive absentee ballots for every election.

None of these reforms are radical changes, but taken together they continue Maines’ tradition of being a state where every vote matters.

In previous years, the state has passed no-excuse absentee voting, Election Day registration and automatic voter registration, which updates voter rolls when an eligible voter moves to the state or changes their name or address at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Maine does not have a problem with partisan gerrymandering, because districts are drawn by a bipartisan commission overseen by the courts. Maine election officials are able to recount close elections and fix mistakes because we have a paper record of every vote.

This has resulted in high levels of voter participation, even last year, when fear of spreading the coronavirus disrupted usual practice for many voters.

The 2020 election showed that you could actually increase already-high voter turnout during a pandemic by giving people more ways to cast a ballot. It also showed that high turnout does not convey a partisan advantage: Maine voters picked two Democratic members of Congress and a Republican senator and split the presidential vote, with Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump each winning one congressional district.

Voting is a fundamental right, and state governments should play an active role in making sure that their voting laws are keeping pace with technology and the way people’s lives are changing. Democracy works best when no groups are shut out of the voting process.

If members of the U.S. Senate really want to protect voters’ rights in every state, they should look to Maine, to see that it’s possible to run safe, secure elections without silencing any voices.


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