CONTRIBUTORS

Your right to vote without fear

Posted Oct. 24, 2012, at 2:10 p.m.

Recently, a 60-year-old friend, who treasures her right to vote, became afraid that she suddenly wouldn’t be able to. She had heard bits and pieces of radio show talk about having to show identification even for those long-registered. She heard about grandmothers struggling to locate their birth certificates.

My friend was relieved to hear that these stories simply don’t apply to Maine. Here, if you’re already a registered voter, you do not need to produce ID. If you haven’t yet registered, you may do so on Election Day with proof of ID, age and residence — whether you’re a snowbird or a student residing in a dorm room.

If you don’t have a document with you, you may sign an affidavit or, in some cases, vote a “challenged” ballot. Challenged ballots count. They’re not tested unless they’d make a difference in a close election. You may never be turned away from your polling place (the one in your district) as long as you’re in line by closing time.

No special barriers for new voters, the elderly, students, the military or anyone else are permitted. You don’t automatically lose your status as a dependent on a tax return or your scholarships because of where you vote. Police are not waiting at the polls to collect on outstanding parking tickets.

Don’t trust last-minute robocalls or fliers that change your polling place or the date of the election. Call your town office to verify. Even if someone exercises his or her right to raise voter eligibility questions at the polls — which happens occasionally — don’t be intimidated. Challengers must swear to their reasoning under penalty of perjury. Voting is a fundamental right, to be used without fear.

The U.S. Constitution gives all citizens the right to vote. They can register to vote in Maine if: they are a United States citizen; live in a town or city in Maine; and will be 18 years old by Election Day.

If you are registered to vote in Maine, you can vote. You do not need to show ID to get a ballot. You may see a sample ballot and get help on how to mark your ballot before you vote. You also may ask for help to read or mark your ballot.

If you make a mistake, you can get a new ballot. You have the right to use Maine’s Accessible Voting System at your voting place. You may not be harassed when voting or be pressured about how to vote.

If you have any problems, or if you are not allowed to vote, you should call the Elections Division at 888-868-3763 or the Disability Rights Center at 800-452-1948. For information, contact the deputy secretary of state at 624-7736.

The election is important. Vote.

Stephanie Cotsirilos is a consultant and attorney living in Orono. This opinion piece does not constitute legal advice.

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