Last night marked the first time that voters themselves could weigh in on the GOP’s war on voting. The results were mixed, as Maine voted to reinstate Election Day voter registration while Mississippi voted to mandate government-issued IDs in order to cast a ballot.
First, Maine. By an overwhelming twenty point margin, Mainers overruled the GOP governor and legislature and voted to restore Election Day registration, which had been on the books since 1973 before Republicans scrapped it this year. The Protect Maine Votes coalition gathered 70,000 signatures in less than a month, according to the Bangor Daily News, in order to place the issue on the ballot. Sixty-thousand Mainers registered on Election Day in 2008, and the convenience of same day registration helped explain why Maine consistently had one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation.
As they always do, Republicans pointed to voter fraud as the reason for restricting access to the ballot. But a two-month investigation by Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers following the 2010 election didn’t find a single instance of voter fraud. When that argument didn’t stick, opponents of same day registration bizarrely argued that voters should oppose reinstating the reform because gay rights groups supported it. That argument backfired as well, turning what was expected to be a close vote into a blowout. “The Republicans once again overplayed their hand,” Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, the former president of Common Cause, told Rachel Maddow last night.