THE BLOG

Maine Voting Rights Under Attack

06/14/2011 12:05 pm ET | Updated Aug 14, 2011

Following a disturbing national trend, Tea Party Republican Gov. Paul LePage and his allies in Maine's Legislature have used questionable tactics to push through legislation to make it harder for people to vote.

Late on Friday afternoon, Republicans in the Maine State Senate gave the governor his wish and sent to him a bill that will end Election Day registration.

Maine has allowed voters to register to vote on Election Day for 38 years. In that time, there have been only two cases of voting fraud related to same-day registration.

Supporters of the bill trotted out scary stories of stolen elections and protecting the "integrity" of the vote in support of the bill, but their rhetoric ignored facts and instead was based on a callous political calculations.

But the chairman of the Republican Party, quoted in the Portland Press Herald, had a moment of political honesty. He accused Democrats of stealing elections by busing voters to the polls on Election Day. In his crass attack, he revealed the true motives behind the effort to make it harder to vote.

Republicans figure college students, the poor, the disabled, working families and single mothers, the elderly are all more likely to use same-day voter registration than more traditional Republican voting blocks.

Never mind that according to the MCLU, same-day registration in the last election -- the one that elected LePage and his legislative allies -- favored Republicans. Maine's Republicans decided to play the same games that are happening all over the country -- fulfilling a GOP agenda to make it more difficult to vote.

It's a cliché, but voting is fundamental to a healthy democracy. We should be doing everything we can to increase voter participation.

Maine is proud of its high turnout rate. In the last election, only Wisconsin and Minnesota had more of its voters participate. That tradition of participation is put at risk, and thousands of Mainers may turn up at the polls on the next Election Day only to be turned away.

That's criminal. Or at least it used to be. Now, unfortunately, I'm afraid it will become business as usual.