Elections should be won on the basis of superior ideas, not by throwing pointless stumbling blocks in front of honest voters.
Mainers showed resounding support for that belief in November when they rejected a legislative attempt to outlaw Election Day voter registration.
Republicans in the Legislature had overwhelmingly approved a bill killing the practice based upon unsubstantiated charges that out-of-state college students were voting improperly.
State Republican Chairman Charlie Webster said he had experienced this in Farmington when, he alleged, busloads of students were driven to the polls. Webster usually neglected to mention that he had twice won legislative races in the district that includes Farmington.
Mysteriously, Republican legislative leaders who had sponsored the voter-suppression bill did nothing to support it during the campaign and the measure was easily overturned in November.
But the New York University School of Law has warned that Republicans in 19 states have gone forward with laws designed to keep groups that are most closely aligned with Democrats from casting votes.
The new restrictions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, will "fall most heavily" on the young people, minorities, poor people and the disabled.
"This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election," the center said. And that, we suspect, is exactly the reason for the sudden Republican interest in vote security.
Of the 12 likely battleground states, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup poll results, "six have either cut back on voting rights already or are currently considering new restrictions."
Florida and Texas, for instance, have passed laws restricting voter registration drives. In 2008, 8.24 percent of new voters registered through such drives.
"Sadly, Florida's anti-voter law creates impassable roadblocks for our volunteers, who are simply trying to bring fellow citizens into our democratic process," Florida League of Women Voters President Deirdre Macnab said.
The League contends that administrative requirements are burdensome and fines of up to $1,000 for the slightest delay or mistake are too harsh.
Republicans should abandon such efforts and focus instead on the one restriction most Americans might support: requiring a photo ID at the polls.
A bill that died in the Senate during the last legislative session would have required two things: a photo ID or an official ID card issued by the Secretary of State's Office to those who do not drive.
The state must issue the cards for free to avoid the appearance of a poll tax. Out-of-state driver's licenses must also suffice so college students attending school here can still vote, as the Supreme Court requires.
A photo ID is required to drive, to cash a check or even buy alcohol in Maine. It would establish a minimal level of security to ensure that the person is the person they say they are.
Our goal as a state and a nation should remain as it has been — making it as easy as possible for people to participate in the democratic process.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.