Go Forth and Vote

Posted Nov. 02, 2009, at 7:31 p.m.

Have the shortened days got to you? Lost the old pep? Can’t get motivated? Try voting! There’s no better way to reinvigorate the democratic-republic in you than to cast a vote for a worthy referendum or against one that didn’t impress. Want another reason? Your neighbor, or maybe even your spouse, may have already voted and you don’t want to be left out.

Voting is simple but important. If you’re registered, you just need to show up at your local polling place. Your town office can tell you where that is if you have doubts. It couldn’t hurt to bring identification, though you shouldn’t need it. Not registered? Bring identification and head for town hall — you may be able to vote there as well. Even if there is a problem with your registration, you can still vote under Maine’s challenged ballot law, so there’s no reason to leave a polling place without having your say.

Don’t know what the seven statewide ballot questions mean? Go to the Secretary of State’s Web page (www.maine.gov/sos/) for answers.

Certainly, there’s enough at stake to lift you from the torpor of endless campaign commercials and lengthy arguments over issues. The heated and expensive campaign on repealing the state’s gay marriage law or the debate over the Taxpayer Bill of Rights couldn’t have escaped your notice. Don’t simply burden your friends with your opinion — make it official at your local polling place. Haven’t decided which way to go on the excise tax referendum or which council candidate to favor? It’s not too late to work up an opinion.

Many of your friends and neighbors likely already have as this is shaping up to be a record year for absentee or early voting with no statewide candidates on the ballot. In 1999, state law was changed to allow any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot for any reason. Since then, the number of people voting early has steadily increased. Some communities, including Bangor, have set up polling places where voters could use absentee ballots to vote before today and they have been crowded.

This could also be a record year for participation in an off-year election. The Secretary of State predicts about 35 percent of registered voters will cast ballots this year. That would exceed the usual 15 percent to 20 percent, but would still be disappointing given the important issues on the ballot.

This year, about 122,000 absentee ballots have been requested, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. That’s a lot for an off-year election but far less than the nearly 250,000 requested in last year’s presidential election.It may be confusing to first-time voters, but there are only two things to remember: Votes are counted carefully in Maine so if you cast a ballot, it will matter; and there’s no reason to leave a polling place without voting, no matter what the problem. (If, by the way, you make a mistake on a ballot, you can ask for another.)

Voting. What would Election Day be without it?

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