Find Maine on a map and you see that we are stuck in the upper right-hand corner of the nation, not on anyone’s way anywhere. But politically we can be right in the middle, and a little home-grown issue can turn out to be an item on someone’s national agenda.
How else can you explain the sudden interest in election reform bills, which have been hotly contested in this year’s legislative session?
It’s certainly not a response to voter fraud, although state Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster appears to have a gut feeling that it has been widespread since the Muskie era. (How else would all those Democrats win elections?)
The chairman aside, Maine has had well-above-average voter participation and only two documented cases of voter fraud in 30 years.
Still, the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature grappled with a pair of bills that would protect against potential fraud, even if it meant preventing some eligible voters from casting ballots. In classic moderate Maine fashion, the Legislature passed one bill and killed the other.
The one that passed ends Election Day registration, disadvantaging students, the elderly, busy working people or anyone else who had moved since the last election and didn’t have time to get to Town Hall. It passed on virtually party line votes in the House and Senate, indicating which party lawmakers think this will help.
The other bill, which would have required voters to present a photo ID at the polls, passed the House in a partisan vote and just missed in the Senate.
These voting reforms have been described as a solution in search of a problem, which is true on the state level. But when you look nationally, Republican efforts to make voting more difficult address a very real problem for the party.