Voting in Maine … accountability, right or responsibility?

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The popular saying; “why do today what you can put off till tomorrow” seems to be the way things are in Maine with regard to same-day voter registration. Maine is only one of eight states that allow Election Day, same-day, voter registration. The question I ask is: Why would we set ourselves up for creating the potential of voter fraud? The question will read as follows:

“Question 1: Peoples’ Veto”

“Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Laws of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?”

I know, the opponents of the new law that requires voters to register at least two business days before Election Day, say there have been only two incidents in the state of Maine. The question to you is: “Is same day registration a right, responsibility, accountability or is it just common sense to require people to register to vote the other 240 days of the year?

There was a time in the United States when we were taught civic responsibilities and the importance of educating ourselves about the issues facing our towns, state and federal government. And we were taught about our responsibility to vote. That was called “civics” when I went to school and it was designed to educate you about the political process and importance of becoming involved in your community. The course  was called “Local Government”  and it was taught by Mr. Barner, a local town councilman. It was he who sparked my interest and love of politics and opened my eyes to independent thinking about issues. I found out his party affiliation when I registered to vote, but he never showed his opinion one way or the other. Today, there are very few school districts in the state of Maine that teach anything that would be considered balanced (nonpartisan) concerning issues we face. The textbooks feature global warming, alternative energy and use terms such as “big oil”. But I digress…

The fact is that there have been several situations brought to light that may be voter fraud and at the least, have been deemed worthy to investigate by Maine’s Attorney General William Schneider. The heart of the accusations has been directed at college students in particular. On one hand, I am all for finding ways to get the young folks involved and for them to participate in the process. On the other hand, there are a couple of issues I do have with college students participating in Maine’s election process when they are not residents of our great state. Maine’s Constitution specifically addresses the issue of students and military personnel. The Maine Constitution reads as follows in Article 2, Section 1:

“Senators and Representatives, in the city, town or plantation where his or her residence has been established, if he or she continues to reside in this State; and the elections shall be by written ballot. But persons in the military, naval or marine service of the United States, or this State, shall not be considered as having obtained such established residence by being stationed in any garrison, barrack or military place, in any city, town or plantation; nor shall the residence of a student at any seminary of learning entitle the student to the right of suffrage in the city, town or plantation where such seminary is established.”

Doesn’t seem to be much ambiguity in that portion of the Maine Constitution does there? So it begs the question: How can people register and vote, either by regular ballot or absentee ballot? In the first investigation that is still ongoing, it was discovered there were over 200 students (with out-of-state addresses and car registrations) that voted in the last election cycle. The second example involved five five medical students from Caymen Islands who were not questioned when they registered to vote listing the Holiday Inn, Portland area, as their address. So is the new mantra; “I am usually not eligible to vote in Maine, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night!”

The bigger question I have is: Why would the clerks allow these people to vote if they showed identification from out of state or from another country? The answer is that they were never asked to show a valid State of Maine ID or any ID for that matter. That is correct! Try to return an item to Walmart without a receipt and get your money back. Will not happen without a photo ID! Just show up at a polling place and no problem. The Legislature will be addressing LD 199 requiring a photo ID to vote (Rep. Rich Cebra, R, Naples) when they reconvene in January 2012. This, to me,  will resolve all other issues with regards to same day voter registration. Please stay in tune with this legislation, LD 199, and let your Legislators know you support the requirement that everybody show a photo ID before they get a ballot.

By the way, the Secretary of State Charlie Summers has said that any person that cannot afford a photo ID will be given one at no cost. The law also allows the town clerk to sign an affidavit allowing people they know are town residents receive a ballot without a photo ID.

While I was doing my research for the issue, I found that there are two states that allow convicted felons serving time (that means in prison)  to vote  . . . can you guess which two states? The people’s republic of Vermont and —  you guessed correctly — Maine.

Are you kidding me? Tell me this isn’t a total outrage. I was always taught that when you commit crimes against society, you give up your rights and freedom. I am really curious as to how the convicts register to vote and if they claim Maine as their residence? You can bet I will be bringing this issue up to some of my friends in the Legislature and asking for someone to sponsor the legislation. This, of course, will need to be introduced to the Legislative Council for special consideration. I know there are some legislators who read this column, so any takers?

The issue is not to disenfranchise any legal residents their right to vote, but to put integrity back into our election process! Do we really want people who are lazy and uninformed voting anyway? The proponents of the referendum think that nonresidents should have as much say in elections as those of us who do the responsible thing by registering during the other 240 other days of the year!

That is my opinion, what say you? I can be reached by email , [email protected] , www.mainetaxpayers.com , or Maine Taxpayers United Face Book page.

Scott Lansley is a former Maine legislator, current Sabattus town selectman and political director for Maine Taxpayers United.

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