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Shenna Bellows is Maine’s secretary of state. Maureen Drouin is the executive director of Maine Conservation Voters. Jill Ward is the president of the board of the League of Women Voters of Maine
When it comes to progress for democracy, Maine is embracing its Dirigo motto: we are leading the way. Since the 2020 election, voter suppression legislation has surfaced in almost every single state, including here in Maine. But the Maine Legislature quickly squashed all attempts to limit Mainers’ right to vote. Instead, we were successful in making our elections more accessible and more secure with historic legislation to strengthen voting rights in our state.
We deeply appreciate the efforts of the Maine Legislature and Gov. Janet Mills to expand access to the ballot box. Four bills stand out as essential, historic pieces of legislation that leverage technology to improve access to voting and position Maine as a leader at this critical juncture. Online voter registration, more absentee ballot dropboxes, accepting student IDs as permissible forms of identification to register to vote, and ensuring that seniors and disabled Mainers can sign up to receive absentee ballots for every election are common sense reforms that we are proud to have enacted in Maine this year.
In stark contrast, nearly half of our 50 states have enacted laws in the last six months that make it harder for Americans to pursue their constitutional right to vote. If building a healthy democracy were a race, Maine would be pulling ahead right now. But the further we pull away from the pack, the more noticeable and urgent the efforts to help protect and push for expanding voter turnout and access across the country become.
Creating laws that help people vote should not be a partisan issue. It shouldn’t be easier to vote in the Pine Tree State than in the Peach State.
Yet, the sad reality is that it’s getting increasingly more difficult for those in states like Georgia and Texas to cast their ballots. Maine still has more to do to continue to create the most accessible and secure elections that we can, but we must acknowledge that some states are stuck waiting for the starting gun while we’re nearing the finish line.
We call on our federal delegation to stand up for the clear injustices to our democracy happening across our country. The United States Senate missed its first opportunity to support S.1 the For the People Act of 2021, which would take best practices from states like Maine and set federal standards for voting rights. When you read what’s in the legislation it sounds a lot like we do well here in Maine — same-day voter registration, no excuse absentee voting, and voting rights for people who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.
This legislation is a watershed moment for American democracy, and we are so proud that Sen. Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Jared Golden recognize how urgent and historic this substantial voting rights reform is for our country.
Like other watershed moments in our history including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, this measure is being delayed by the filibuster. But the fight is not over, and it’s not too late for the U.S. Senate to do the right thing to protect American democracy. And the Maine delegation has a unique opportunity to talk about what we do so well here in Maine as a national model for voting rights.
It is difficult to fully celebrate our successes here in Maine when we know that hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in other states will be forced to wait in longer lines at the polls, drive further to get to their polling place, and be required to present more personal information than necessary just to participate in the democratic process. Voting rights for Americans across the country matter as much as our own. For Mainers and for all, we must pass the For the People Act.