Require ID, but let's be fair about it

The Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs on Wednesday took testimony on LD 199, a bill that would require a photo ID to vote in Maine.

Under this proposal, there are only two kinds of photo IDs that would be allowed: a valid driver’s license or a state identification card issued by the secretary of state. So, anyone who does not have one of these specific forms of ID could not vote.

An unlicensed elderly Mainer who cannot, on a fixed income, afford to pay the $5 identification card fee would be barred from voting.

That's just wrong.

The bill is designed to “fix” a supposed problem of voter fraud in Maine, a problem that simply doesn't exist, according to the League of Women Voters, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, AARP and — the governor’s chief counsel, Dan Billings.

Last summer, debating with others on the online As Maine Goes forum, Billings acknowledged that it makes sense to close loopholes to voter fraud, but he argued that there is no evidence of widespread fraud.

To be precise, what he wrote was: “Maine Republicans love to allege voter fraud, but nobody does anything to try to prove it.”

This, coming from a well-respected Maine Republican.

Billings is entirely correct that our system allows for voter fraud and we should consider closing the ID loophole, so requiring identification makes sense. However, setting the very narrow requirement that the photo ID must be issued by the secretary of state strips too many very real people of their constitutionally protected right to vote.

If voter fraud is really something the Legislature believes is a problem that needs immediate attention, lawmakers might consider requiring basic identification of citizenship and residency instead, which come in many and varied forms besides photo IDs.

The elderly Mainer who doesn’t drive and can’t afford a photo ID certainly has a birth certificate and a Social Security card. Either one, coupled with a library card or utility card to prove residency, could suffice to cast a ballot.

Earlier this month, the committee heard another bill that contains the kernel of a terrific idea, but it is not yet quite right.

That bill (LD 34), scheduled for a work session next Friday, would require anyone seeking state office to show proof of citizenship in the form of a certified birth certificate and a driver’s license (or similar government-issued ID).

Why require the second form of ID? Shouldn’t a birth certificate be plenty to prove citizenship?

We hope the committee, in considering these two bills, will consider them as matched bookends in the election process. Maine should require people who want to run for office to prove citizenship and we should require people who vote these candidates into office to prove identity, but the requirement to prove that status cannot lock people out just because they don’t have a state-issued picture ID.

While the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is considering voter regs, there is another bill members ought to reject with vigor.

LD 203, presented to the committee yesterday, is curiously named an act “to assist municipal clerks by providing adequate time to register voters.”

The bill would stop Maine’s same-day registration allowance and would require that voters register “no later than the Tuesday preceding the election.”

Municipal clerks didn’t ask for this bill and don’t want it. They have adequate time now to register people in plenty of time to vote.

By requiring voters to register at least one week in advance of an election, we would knowingly be blocking people (admittedly unorganized and out-of-touch people) from voting because they didn’t remember or just didn’t have time to register a week in advance.

Maine has such a great voter participation rate, why would we want to do anything to lessen that? It doesn’t make sense, especially if the clerks aren’t even asking for our help.

Require proof of citizenship and identity from candidates and voters? Yes.

Require citizens to be registered a week before they vote? Absolutely not.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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I agree with you Jim. The Al Franken senate race was flat out embarrassing. Why wait until voter fraud on a huge level directly impacts a senate race, or governor race? Try to discourage it now.

Jim Cyr's picture

Acorn Fiasco

Mr. Riml, Unless you have been living in a cave the past 2-3yrs, with all the publicity, State filings against them, and public knowledge of the above, a documentation of charges and convictions on my part would on lead to a verbose response from the disbelievers and deniers. Mr. Franken was a perfect example! More voter fraud were uncovered then there were votes that separated him from the loser of the said race of that Senate seat! Again very public knowledge!

RONALD RIML's picture

In other words, you don't have (or know) squat....


ACORN Accusations - October 18, 2008

McCain makes exaggerated claims of "voter fraud." Obama soft-pedals his connections.


The McCain-Palin campaign accuses ACORN, a community activist group that operates nationwide, of perpetrating "massive voter fraud." It says Obama has “long and deep” ties to the group. We find both claims to be exaggerated. But we also find Obama has understated the extent of his work with the group.

Neither ACORN nor its employees have been found guilty of, or even charged with, casting fraudulent votes. What a McCain-Palin Web ad calls "voter fraud" is actually voter registration fraud. Several ACORN canvassers have been found guilty of faking registration forms and others are being investigated. But the evidence that has surfaced so far shows they faked forms to get paid for work they didn’t do, not to stuff ballot boxes.

?Obama’s path has intersected with ACORN on several occasions – more often than he allowed in the final debate.
We've received scores of e-mails asking us about Obama's connection to the community activist group Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, or ACORN. A McCain-Palin ad released on the Web accuses Obama of having ties to the organization, which it says engages in "intimidation tactics," "massive voter fraud" and "pressuring banks to issue risky loans."

Destroying Democracy?

The McCain ad accuses ACORN of "massive voter fraud." In the final presidential debate, John McCain added that ACORN "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." Sounds scary, but is it true?

But so far ACORN itself has not been officially charged with any fraud. Aside from the heated charges and counter-charges, no evidence has yet surfaced to show that the ACORN employees who submitted fraudulent registration forms intended to pave the way for illegal voting. Rather, they were trying to get paid by ACORN for doing no work. Dan Satterberg, the Republican prosecuting attorney in King County, Wash., where the largest ACORN case to date was prosecuted, said that the indicted ACORN employees were shirking responsibility, not plotting election fraud.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If memory serves the Pirate,

If memory serves the Pirate, RevJim, they kept counting those votes until Al won, didn't they?

Jim Cyr's picture

Require ID"s

With well over 20 Million undocumented people in this country and the ACORN voter fraud fiasco in numerous states, all the college students from out of state and voting in this state illegally,why should it not be looked at or reviewed? It's border line ridiculous to say the problem does not exist in any state!

RONALD RIML's picture

Acorrn Fraud Fiasco......

Care to document all the Acorn 'Fraud' - with the charges filed and convictions there, Jim?


Wow! Are the Democrat

Wow! Are the Democrat bloggers coming out swinging on this one. Why? Fraud prevention should be evryone's aim and for sure if enough people make an honest effort a better way to identify voters is possible. A simple voter registration card issued to the voting citizen would be an improvement. Also, when a person registers to vote anywhere in the country, the new location should notify the old voter location and have them take the voter off the list. As far as college students go, this is a legitimate problem and will be hard to take care of, but notifying their former location of residency of the change by the Maine voter registrar would deminish this as well as a check with DMV in the old State for vehicle registration and a requirement that they register vehicles at their NEW address. Is there any fraud in the voting system? Who knows, but we are certainly owed an assurance by the voter registration system that all that can be done to prevent it is done.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You left out the word

You left out the word "rabid". It's "rabid right wing wacho faction". You need to work on your consistency, T....

Gary Fortin's picture

You just can't let anyone vote.

If you can't afford the ID it should be given to you for free, We must have some control over who votes

William Fessenden's picture

"If and only if"-it doesn't matter

I understand what your intent was.

My concern was for the notion or mere suggestion of this type of state (or worse, national) ID.

There are those in Augusta who believe voter fraud is a matter of concern. I agree with the you and the rest of the board, i don't believe there is. Your words essentially challenge Rep. Cebra, Rep. Knight and others to take the next step and to go even further.

You clearly stated you didn't believe there was fraud, suggesting they to prove it is one thing, I believe challenging them to create an even more restrictive legislation is counter productive.

William Fessenden's picture

The next shoe is dropping

If there was substantial voter fraud going on LD 199 (Voter ID) and LD 203 (moratorium on voter registration) will not do anything to deter it. Nationwide, the states with more stringent voter registration and ID laws, have actually documented an INCREASE in voter fraud. I have outlined the research here

More importantly is the suggestion by the Sun Journal editorial staff that "legislators consider requiring basic identification of citizenship and residency instead". Now that is nice Orwellian approach to take to a non-issue. "Your papers please!"

JUDY MEYER's picture

Will -- Please, present the

Will -- Please, present the phrase in context. What we said was that "if," and only "if," the Legislature sees this as a problem -- which we had already argued was really not a problem -- perhaps a kinder alternative would be the basic ID rather than the imposition of a photo ID. You've pulled out a partial sentence from a larger argument here to present some point we were not making. Not even close.


You're reaching pretty hard on the "poll tax" statement. They would need to pay $5 dollars for a state ID IF they don't already have one and IF they don't have a drivers license. Come on man. Not to mention the biggest group being 'victimized' here are senior citizens. So here's a paradox for you. An argument I hear fairly often is community organizers need to rally 'young passionate liberal voters' to get out and offset the vote of the elderly, mostly conservative vote. So why then, would Republicans want to make it harder for senior citizens to vote?



Republicans use means available to suppress the vote assuming that this will help them win.

In college towns they claim students vote twice - once at their parents address and again at their college address. The claim is made without proof, but "sounds" good and is easily made at the local coffee shop, so becomes the conventional wisdom. By the third telling, the tale becomes unassailable fact.

In Florida, state police with mirrored sunglasses and hands folded visually challenged every voter. To a minority person who has been harassed by police for a lifetime, the threat, combined with one voting station for thousands of people, threw the election to Dubya (along with the help of the Scalia Court).

The requirement for a state id at $5 a pop is the return of the poll tax. Next, they'll probably require that voters read and interpret to the clerk's satisfaction a section of the Constitution. That's the way it was when I first registered to vote.

Republicans have a love affair with the intentions of the founders - perhaps they'd like voting restricted to white males over 21 who own real property?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"The claim is made without

"The claim is made without proof, but "sounds" good"....
When did lack of proof that it IS happening become proof that it ISN'T happening?

No fraud

To say there is absolutely no fraudulent voting in Maine would be like saying there is no corruption in government.

Jason Theriault's picture

Here's the compromise

If a drivers license or state ID is required to vote, State ID's should be free.

 's picture

suppress the vote!

"The bill is designed to “fix” a supposed problem of voter fraud in Maine, a problem that simply doesn't exist" No voter fraud in Maine, so let's just make it harder for people to vote! Yay democracy!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It'll sure keep the

It'll sure keep the "undocumenteds" out of the mix, won't it, Lil?

Not buying it

I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying that the main concern here is seniors not being able to buy a 5 dollar license if they don't already have a drivers license. I don't know for sure, and I'm sure a lot of people don't, if voter fraud exists but if I had to wager a guess, I'd say it happens. It is currently so simple to fraudulently register to vote. Who's to say some fanatic can't register to vote in towns across the state? Maybe it hasn't happened on a huge scale here in Maine, like it did with Franken senate race or with Acorn in other states, but why wait until it happens?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The greater the resistance to

The greater the resistance to this requirement, the greater the democrats make transparent their witnessing of their ability to manipulate the outcome of elections slipping away.

 's picture

That is utter nonsense, you

That is utter nonsense, you need an I.D. to cash a check, open a bank account, buy alcohol or any number of daily activities. How many people get to be elderly and managed to get through life with no form of I.D.? I would have to guess the number of people is close ot zero. If the issue is affordability then waive the $5 fee for those people that can't afford it. I think the real issue is the students at the university and colleges that vote by absentee at their out of state residence and then register here and vote. According to Maine law you must register your vehicle in Maine if you are registered to vote, so how much money is the state losing by not enforcing that? A better way to do it is the way American election monitors do it in the third world when they have initial elections; have everyone dip their finger in blue ink that won't wash off for three days.
As an aside, I would like to point out that a social security card is not valid I.D. for anything and the only people that can ask for it is someone who works for the Social Security administration.
Same day registration is a great way for voter fraud to happen, what is going to stop someone from going from town to town registering and voting? I don't want to deny anyone the chance to vote but anyone "out of touch and admittedly unorganized" doesn't take it seriously so tough luck for them. As John Wayne said "life is tough but it is tougher when you are stupid."

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You're right,

You're right, you stated, you can't even cash a personal check at your OWN bank wthout providing photo I.D.
If a person can't prove who they are with a reasonable degree of legitimacy, they should not be allowed to vote. PERIOD!!!!

Tom Farkas's picture

How many is "too many"?

"setting the very narrow requirement that the photo ID must be issued by the secretary of state strips too many very real people of their constitutionally protected right to vote."

"Too many"?

That is an astonishing statement.

It's beyond belief that this newspaper would be support ANYONE being denied their right to vote.

JUDY MEYER's picture

Tom -- We absolutely were

Tom -- We absolutely were making the argument that no one should be denied their right to vote. Not a single person. Much higher up in the piece, we presented the example of a single elderly person who doesn't have a photo ID as an example of one among the many and varied people out there who don't have photo IDs for a variety of reasons. We said very clearly that violating one person's right to vote is just plain wrong. It is. Maine can't allow that, and imposing a photo ID requirement would deny the one and the many. That was our point, but perhaps it could have been more direct. There is no chance we would ever get behind any move to deny a single person their right to vote. Ever. Really.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Republicans are trying to

Republicans are trying to circumvent the democrat mantra of "vote early; vote often".

 's picture

Finally the truth

Voter fraud in Maine is never proved because it so rarely happens. It simply isn't a problem. So why are Republicans pushing these three bills. Well we know because we've seen what they do elsewhere. The Felony list used for example in the 2000 election in Florida is perfect example. A former Dixfield resident in that year went to vote and was barred solely because his name was on the list of felons. After the election the list which was provided by a private firm was found to have 40% more names than it should have - people were not taken off in a timely manner, reports from state agencies were in error, etc, etc. But more than that their use implies that each of are names are unique when we know that not true. So if John Smith was convicted of a felony, all John Smith's were prevented from voting.
I don't know how voting clerks will use the two ID system. But I'll bet on election day Republican clerks will reject a lot of democratic ID's.
All three bills should be defeated, but I doubt they will be with Republicans controlling the state for the next 2 years and our wacky governor.


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