Voter registration changes are essential

By Jonathan McKane, Special to the BDN
Posted Sept. 29, 2011, at 4:24 p.m.

The lack of a voter-fraud smoking cannon in the recent report from Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers has brought delighted cheers from Democrats in this state. They feel confident the report confirms what they have been repeating mantralike for years: “There is no voter fraud in Maine… There is no voter fraud in Maine…”

The report confirms nothing of the kind. In fact, it shows yet another case of voter fraud. But worse than that, it demonstrates a voter registration and election system that is not only an irrational anachronism, it is fraught with security weaknesses.

Within the tiny statistical sample that Secretary Summers investigated — a fraction of 1 percent of the total number of registered voters in Maine — he found 77 voters who were registered in Maine and another state as well as six non-U.S. citizens who were registered to vote in Maine. Considering the small sample and the fact that municipalities only have to hold election records for two years, this is a phenomenal amount of “clerical errors.”

Technically — and surprisingly — those situations are not called “voter fraud.” Actual voter fraud is a very specific crime and is not easy to prove. There has to be definitive proof that a voter had intent to illegally change the results of an election.

Democrats believe that without lots of proof of voter fraud, our voting and election system does not need to change. They are wrong.

Maine’s system is by far one of the most unsecure and lax in the country — if not the world. Virtually anyone can vote in Maine as there are no real checks on a voter’s identification — and certainly not the time to check, even if there were. All you need is an invoice with a street address on it.

Take the now-infamous 19 Grand Cayman Island students, for example. These students were in Maine temporarily because of damage done to their school from a hurricane. They were not residents of Maine; they never were and never intended to be. They were, however, rounded up on Election Day with nothing more than a hotel address and were allowed to play a role in deciding who Maine residents should have represent them in the Legislature. They have not set foot in the state since.

A new law that would make these kinds of abuses more difficult was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last June. The law prohibits registering to vote on Election Day or within two business days before that day. Forty-two states have this requirement or tougher. Most are much tougher.

The title of the bill was “An Act to Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process” and that is all this is about. Sadly, before it could become law, left-wing groups gathered enough signatures for a people’s veto. They are claiming that voters will become “disenfranchised.” Again, this isn’t true.

New voters will continue to have all year long to register to vote. They will be able to register at their town hall, by mail, at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles or at any state social services agency.

The State Division of Elections provides voter registration applications to 17- and 18-year-old students every fall. A 17-year-old can register before Election Day if they are going to be 18 on or before that day.

Also, Maine law requires municipal clerks to visit all licensed nursing homes and residential care facilities in the 30 days before Election Day. And finally, if you want to vote early, you can register and vote on the same day.

It couldn’t be much easier to register and vote in Maine. Allowing two days before Election Day for municipal clerks to verify new Maine voters is no real burden.

This November, Maine people still have a chance to make this change law and start to secure the voter registration process. It is essential that we do.

Secure and honest elections are the foundation of a democracy. Without them, we have no democracy — only a sham reminiscent of the “elections” held in the former Soviet Union.

The recent revelations about Maine’s least-secure-in-the-nation election process have sent a chilling reminder about just how easy it is to illegally influence a Maine election. Vote No on Question 1 this November.

Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle, represents District 51 in the Maine House of Representatives.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/29/opinion/contributors/voter-registration-changes-are-essential/ printed on October 2, 2014