The BDN reported that 19 individuals were in Maine living at a hotel because they were displaced as a result of a hurricane. According to reporter Eric Russell’s story, these displaced students were in Maine “temporarily” awaiting their return to the British Grand Cayman Islands where they were attending medical school.
These new voters, records show, voted on Nov. 4, 2004 and have never voted again in Maine.
This specific exploitation of our voting laws should cause Maine voters to question our election system.
This obvious abuse of same-day registration should in itself prove that an inspection period is absolutely critical to protect the integrity of our election process. Registering two business days before Election Day simply allows the election clerk to ensure the accuracy of the voter list.
Without an inspection period it is not humanly possible for our election clerks to review all new
registrants and determine that they are legitimate, legal and eligible voters. Frankly, two days may not even be long enough, but at least it allows some period of time to work toward better securing our elections.
There is an obvious reason why 42 other states require an inspection period.
Several of these states, including California (15 days), New York (30 days) and Massachusetts (20 days), require their residents to register early to guarantee that only those legally allowed to vote will participate in the election. The inspection period also allows the clerks to check that no one has voted twice.
Regarding the British Cayman Island students who were temporarily residing at the Holiday Inn Express in South Portland, the determination of residency under Title 21-A is clear.
It reads: “Residence. ‘Residence’ means that place where the person has established a fixed and principal home to which the person, whenever temporarily absent, intends to return.”
These 19 people were in Maine because their school was flooded. They obviously had no intention of becoming a Maine resident (“whenever temporarily absent, intends to return”), and in my opinion voted inappropriately. As I stated before they never voted again here in Maine.
The obvious question is, if no hurricane had occurred in the Cayman Islands affecting the medical school, would these students have voted in Maine or in their home state? The answer is obvious to me, they would have voted absentee at home.
These individuals were from California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Illinois and Tennessee. I suspect that many of them had never even been to Maine.
Any argument that suggests that individuals staying in Maine temporarily should have the right to vote is illogical.
Does anyone suggest that if 500 people who are temporarily displaced from say, Vermont, due to a storm (perhaps such as tropical storm Irene), and just so happen to be housed in Maine on Election Day, should be allowed to vote because they are physically here? Should they be allowed to vote on local issues and on who we might send to the Legislature to represent us in Augusta? Of course not – that doesn’t make any sense.
Maine law allows 18-year-old U.S. citizens who are Maine residents to vote.
Unfortunately, under our same-day voting registration law many of these nonresidents could easily register on Election Day. They could walk in Election Day, with a receipt from a hotel, and vote in our local elections. This is madness.
On Election Day, Nov. 8, 2011, the voters of Maine will be given the opportunity to improve the integrity of our election system.
I ask readers to vote no on Question 1 and support the two-day inspection period law, which will give additional long overdue protections within our election laws.
All legal residents have a right to vote. Voting no on referendum Question 1 will secure Maine’s ballot and protect our election process.
Rep. Doug Damon represents House District 16, which includes part of Bangor.