A government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” That is the great, shining vision of our nation as a vibrant, thriving democracy Abraham Lincoln spoke of in November 1863 during the Gettysburg Address.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

That’s the thing about democracy. Flawed and imperfect as it may be, it is also arguably the most interesting and dynamic system of government out there. It not only thrives on the active participation of those it serves in order to function, it requires it.

Without us, it’s nothing. Or, at least, it’s not a democracy.

Fortunately, here in Maine, we have a pretty impressive record of voter turnout and involvement. Go, us! I suppose it’s not really that surprising. We are, after all, a state that looks after our neighbors, has a fair number of opinions on how things ought to be run and takes civic responsibility seriously. All of these traits are common in people who show up to vote.

Maine Encyclopedia notes: “For half a century, Maine has had a relatively high voter turnout in presidential elections. In every presidential election from 1960 to 2008, Maine’s turnout, based on its voting age population, has exceeded the national average, frequently by 10% or more.”

In fact, we frequently come in second in the nation (to Minnesota, of all places) for turnout.

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Our civic-minded outlook not only drives us to the polls; it drives our devotion to free and fair access for all qualified voters while maintaining a high standard of voter and election security.

Towards that end, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has announced that Maine is launching a Central Voter Registration system that will “provide a secure platform for state and municipal-level election officials to maintain voter rolls, facilitate absentee and in-person voting, capture voter participation history, implement public-facing online portals for absentee ballot requests and tracking, online voter registration, and voter information lookup.”

We have an enviable track record for our engaged and empowered electorate. However, we cannot take this for granted and rest on our laurels. A challenge to voter rights comes along every once in a while and it falls to us to protect those rights.

For example, back in 2011, the Republican-led Legislature changed the law to do away with same-day voter registration, a measure approved by then-Gov. Paul LePage. And so we the people had to right that wrong. A citizen’s referendum rejected that measure by 60%, a decisive statement, and same-day access was preserved.

Recently, there have been some murmurs about requiring a photo ID to vote.

This idea has been thoroughly examined – and just as thoroughly rejected – before. It has been found to be a barrier to low-income, unhoused and vulnerable populations. For those of us who rely upon our driver’s license to get around, that might seem extreme, but the testimony from those who would lose their vote through no fault of their own is clear. What’s more, it’s not needed. Requiring a photo ID is a false fix because there isn’t a problem that needs correcting.

As the saying goes, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”  It is time for us all to once again rally behind our constitution and the right to vote. As quirky as our government may be, democracy is worth fighting for.

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