The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1:12 p.m.
Editorials | Opinion

Endorsement: Yes on 1 yields convenience, ease for voters

Convenience is regarded highly in modern society as a necessity.

As the pace of life increases to keep in stride with the quickstep of the web and technology, institutions also warp their methods to maintain a spot in the competition that is progression.

But leave it to traditionalists to attempt restraint on expedience.

For the state of Maine, the reins come in the form of LD 1376 — a repeal on the law establishing Election Day voter registration, a system popular in Maine since 1973. Under the changed law, voters would have to register on or before the Thursday before Election Day.

Of course, this lassoing of voter comfort is due entirely to Republicans — who control the Maine Legislature. Thus, it was signed off on by the leader of the right-wing pack himself, Gov. Paul LePage, soon after the measure passed through the Maine Legislature in June.

A people’s veto spearheaded by Protect Maine Votes, a partnership of 23 groups managed to halt the usurp of accustomed ease on Election Day, leaving the decision of same-day registration in the hands of the people the measure would affect most: the voters of Maine.

Appearing on this year’s Nov. 8 ballot, Question 1 will ask the state of Maine whether same-day registration has any significance. A “yes” will maintain same-day registration; a “no” will uphold the LD 1376 repeal.

Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster said same-day isn’t commonsensical, as there are few ways to measure whether voters come from out of state to take part in our elections.

Webster’s had a rough go of it this year. A list of 206 college students he presented to Secretary of State Charlie Summers this summer didn’t hold up under a Summers’ investigation — the results of which found no student voter fraud. There was a 2002 case located in Portland where an El Salvadoran, since deported, voted.

Fraud, however small, isn’t OK. To change the law, we need more than a lonely case and fear of fraudulence. What’s eliminated must be less than what’s gained to justify same-day registration’s repeal. And the benefit to repeal hasn’t been demonstrated.

David Farmer, spokesman for Protect Maine Votes, told The Maine Campus in a story on page A1 that 70,000 people took advantage of their same-day registration rights in 2009 and 2010. The system is popular, convenient and hasn’t demonstrated widespread failure.

While Webster said college towns (he mentioned Orono by name) would benefit from same-day registration’s repeal, Orono town clerk Wanda Thomas told The Maine Campus her personnel are better prepared to deal with voters at the polls than at the town office.

And frankly, Thomas knows better. She runs elections in Maine’s most college-voter-dominated town.

Last year, she said approximately 500 of 623 voters on the University of Maine campus registered same-day. According to Thomas, changing the law would tamp down student voting and be costlier for Orono taxpayers.

The necessity for a repeal simply isn’t there. And much of the argument for upholding LD 1376 is based on a plethora of phantom, hypothetical situations of fraud that cannot be allowed to haunt democratic procedure.

So don’t allow Webster’s ravings to persuade you: same-day registration far outweighs the alternative — likely diminished participation among the student ranks.

If convenience has any hold in your life, the answer to the issue is quite easy. Voting Yes on 1 is the only way to maintain a system of proficiency.