One of the ongoing arguments between supporters and detractors of Election Day registration is whether the practice has led to Maine’s high voter turnout. Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, which is campaigning against the fall referendum, provided a chart showing Maine’s turnout has been consistent both before and after the 1973 law originally passed. “There was no perceptible change in voter turnout after the law was passed,” he said.
The chart shows Maine voter turnout hovering around 60 percent over the last 50 years. But David Farmer, spokesman for the Yes on 1/Protect Maine Votes campaign, said the chart is misleading and that Maine’s turnout has increased because of Election Day registration.
“The states that perform best all have same-day registration,” he said. “The reason (Maine’s rate) has stayed consistent is because you had the 26th Amendment, which added millions of new voters nationally to the rolls when they expanded the franchise to 18-year-olds.”
After the change, other states without Election Day registration saw a “precipitous decline,” Farmer said. “Maine, because of same-day registration and aggressive efforts to increase participation, has held off a trend that has zapped participation in other states,” he said.
In a 2010 review of average percentage of voter registration and participation rates for all federal elections from 1978 to 2008, Maine ranked third. Maine’s average voter registration rate was 83 percent and average voter participation rate was 65.1 percent, according to the study by the Daily Beast.
Last on the list was Nevada, which had an average voter registration rate of 58.1 and an average voter participation rate of 49.3.
According to the Associated Press, the 2008 presidential election, which turned out 61.6 percent of the entire country’s eligible voters, was the highest turnout rate since 1968. The 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971.