Every now and then, a commission report comes out that provides solid information and analysis, and helpful recommendations on what state government ought to do. That’s the case with the Elections Commission appointed by former Secretary of State Charlie Summers last year amid various voting controversies, and received by his successor, Matt Dunlap. Unaccountably, the report was leaked to the Huffington Post on Tuesday, with the regrettable effect of producing early news stories but no coverage of its actual presentation to the Legislature’s Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But the report is well worth reading, both for its conclusions and the fair-minded way it considers the evidence. If politicians take heed, it should help settle controversies over Voter ID, Election Day registration and absentee balloting well into the future.
The commission embraces what might seem to be a self-evident truth that, for some reason, isn’t evident to many Republicans. It is that voting is an act of citizenship, citizens should be allowed ready access to voting, and no unnecessary barriers should stand in their way.
Americans vote in smaller numbers than citizens of almost any other major democracy. So it stands to reason that encouraging voters to participate makes more sense than forcing them to obtain photo IDs, register their cars, or visit town halls well before the election if they haven’t already registered.
All of these obstacles were advocated by Republican lawmakers two years ago, and several enacted into law.
In November 2011, 60 percent of Maine’s voters served notice that they disapproved of ending Election Day registration, after which the Voter ID bill was quietly shelved.
But not everyone gave up quietly. Before riding off into the sunset, former GOP Chairman Charlie Webster proclaimed on camera, after the Nov. 6 balloting, that “in some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day.”