For nearly 40 years, Maine residents have been allowed to walk into a town office on Election Day, fill out a form and register to vote. But that all came to an end back in June, when the Republican-controlled Legislature changed the rules: Now you have to register at least two business days before Election Day. So why did that happen, and why did it so upset Democrats that they launched a campaign to restore the law, gathering tens of thousands of signatures to get the issue onto the Nov. 8 ballot?
We return to the floor of the Maine House in early June of this year, as Republicans make their case to do away with same-day voter registration. Argument number one: Municipal clerks around Maine are overburdened by the extra work of processing last-minute registrations.
“The reality is that you have 247 days to register in this state. To ask for three days to give clerks the ability to not be overwhelmed is not going to change anything.”
And argument number two? “Just a little bit of fraud can turn elections around.” Same-day voter registration, Reublicans maintain, threatens the integrity of the election process. Plus it’s unnecessary. “Voter patterns have changed and the options have changed. There’s many options for voters now that there weren’t before. The title of this bill is to ‘Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process–that’s what this is all about.”
But supporters of same-day voter registration don’t buy either point. As for burdening town clerks, that’s possible. But the clerks themselves weren’t making that case. And as for voter fraud, where was the proof?
For many Democrats, the elimination of same-day voter registration was just a cynical attempt to disenfranchise voters, and possibly sway the outcome of elections.