Republican strategist “would prefer it if fewer people voted.”

That’s not the headline of the inaugural column of Matt Gagnon in the Bangor Daily News, a perch that I started to inhabit myself this week — but it could be.

Mr. Gagnon argues that ending same-day registration usefully limits who votes to people who care more and are more informed.  Undoubtedly, I will have something to say about those arguments sometime.

For now, I ask: Will Maine Republicans start to make this argument?

After all, arguments about voter quality are not unheard of in American political history. It’s the same sort of argument** made on behalf of rules that limited voting in urban centers after waves of immigration and, earlier, in the south when the Reconstruction was overturned and literacy tests were introduced, effectively ending blacks’ ability to vote for many decades.  And it’s not absent in more modern contexts. George Will’s case on behalf on lower turnout from about two decades ago routinely shows up in edited volumes for undergraduate political science students.

And it’s the same sort of argument made by New Hampshire Republican Party Chair William O’Brien in support of laws that would restrict out-of-state students from voting in the Granite State, that college students are “foolish” and “just vote their feelings.” (An interesting twist to this is that Mr. O’Brien’s own son, a college student in Maine, voted there.)

Maine supporters of same-day registration already say that  the law is intended to limit voting and, as I laid out the other day, parties and candidates always try to affect turnout to their political advantage.

But I wonder, do Maine Republicans want to tell Maine people that they would like fewer people to vote since the people who register same-day are not as high-quality citizens as those who have registered beforehand?

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** By saying it’s the “same sort of argument,” I do not imply today’s advocates for more restrictive voting rules agree with those other situations in which voting was limited. Instead, my claim is that there have long been arguments in support of limiting voting to citizens who are purportedly more-informed; in short, it’s a recognized historical stream in American politics and political thought.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.