What would an election season be without a classic bogeyman ad?
This is the TV spot or mailer that takes the cake for deceitfulness, exaggeration and hypocrisy, while playing on fears of mysterious outsiders ruining the lives of ordinary Mainers.
Last year, the Maine Democratic Party used the bogeyman in a mailer featuring a pair of fortune cookies and suggesting Maine workers would be speaking Chinese if Eliot Cutler were elected governor.
This year, the political action committee Secure Maine’s Ballot has a strong contender for the most duplicitous ad of the election cycle.
The group opposes Question 1, which seeks to protect Maine’s 38-year-old law allowing a citizen to register to vote on Election Day.
The Maine Legislature repealed that law amid unspecified allegations of voter fraud, but the repeal was put on hold by the referendum.
The group’s 15-second ad asks, “Who should decide Maine’s elections, Mainers or outsiders from other states?”
This, we think, may be a reference to Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster’s discredited attempt to prove that a couple hundred Maine college students from out of state voted illegally in past elections.
Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers later investigated Webster’s complaint and found the students were eligible to vote here.
The Secure Maine’s Ballot ad continues: “Today, outside interests are trying to get rid of Maine’s ethics law.”
These “outside interests” are also not specified. What’s more, the spokeswoman for the No on 1 campaign could not identify them when questioned by the Sun Journal.
The ad, according to Jen Webber, was created by an outside ad agency, which she apparently believes relieves her group from fully understanding or explaining its meaning.
This is, again, a shameless attempt to gin up fears of shadowy outsiders.
Immediately after the Legislature repealed same-day voter registration, a coalition of Maine groups came together and pledged to block that action.
It was a large group, which quickly gained enough signatures to put the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.
If there is some sort of outside conspiracy behind that effort, No on 1 has a responsibility to identify it for voters.
The statement about “trying to get rid of Maine’s ethics law” is even foggier.
Maine does have a Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and it does have rules about how election campaigns should be run.
But Question 1 makes no mention of that law or that commission.
It is, instead, about one clear issue: whether citizens should be allowed to register to vote on Election Day.
That’s not an ethics issue; it’s simply an election practice.
“Keep Maine’s elections decided by Mainers,” the TV ad concludes.
Again with the scary outsiders.
Maine elections are decided by Mainers, whether they happen to live here all their lives, part of their lives, are stationed here by the military or attending college. That’s according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There’s a reason professional politicians prefer TV ads. It’s because they can be crafted to toy with voters’ emotions while avoiding the facts.
The Secure Maine’s Ballot ad is a classic example of that.
Mainers should ignore it and Vote Yes on Question 1.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.