“Regular people” in Maine and Maine’s political future

What support for election-day registration means

Three months ago – three months before election day – I wrote a blog post called, “Turns out, a lot of regular people like election day voter registration.” This title referred to a statement by Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster that “regular people” didn’t care about the four-decade old voting registration rule and how Webster’s statement was proven wrong by the stunning success of the pro-election day registration effort in gathering signatures for the People’s Veto.

Tonight, it’s very clear that Mr. Webster was quite wrong.

Mainers cast a resounding vote for ready access to the ballot on election day.

At the time of this writing, Yes on 1 is winning 60-40 and AP has called the race. [Results here.]

So what does this mean going forward?

I’ve been told that Republicans in the Maine Legislature faced great pressure to vote for ending same-day registration. Both Republicans and Democrats told me that Republican legislators were threatened with primary challengers and with having campaign funds withheld should they support retaining election day registration. (The only other law for which this occurred, I have been told, was the health insurance law that allows for much larger differences in cost across regions of the state.)

However, there was one step on voting laws that was considered but not taken — a voter id requirement. But while the Legislature did not pass voter id requirements, there were some intimations that they might do so at some point.

Tonight makes that much less likely.

There are still the same problems with the id requirement – from the fiscal costs to the impact on voters and voting rates.

And now the reputation of those who pushed to end same-day registration has been undermined, both by the lack of proof for their claims of fraud and also because they pursued and defended deceptive, negative campaign tactics.

None of this means that these tactics and secret, out of state money will be absent from Maine politics. While this vote repudiates them, we need to do more to stop them.

As I spell out in my November 9 Bangor Daily News column, there are concrete steps Maine can take to preserve and protect its governing and political heritages.

I hope Maine people can turn their attention to what we can do – and who we will be – as we create Maine’s political future.

And another thing: With Yes now running at 61% the morning after elecfion day, people are noticing this is the same percentage of Mainers who did not vote for Paul LePage. It is also the same percentage of Ohio voters who voted to preserve collective bargaining. The last Maine legislative session put off both a voter identification requirement and so-called right to work laws. Prospects for both of them when the Maine Legislature returns have certainly dimmed.

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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.