All around the country we’ve witnessed a sudden push in recent months to restrict access to voting and to put up more roadblocks for eligible Americans to get to the polls. While you may have been following the developments here in Maine – where our legislature narrowly voted to eliminate same-day voter registration this past session – it’s important to note that we are just one of thirteen states to successfully adopt new or expanded barriers to voting. And now, thanks to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, we have a concrete number that represents the potential impact of all these collective measures put together:
Five million.
That’s how many voters will have a “significantly harder” time casting ballots in 2012. Some will find it harder because their states now require specific types of photo identification at the polls; some will find it harder because it will be more difficult to register or conduct registration drives prior to elections; and some will find it harder because of laws that reduce the opportunity for early voting. Whatever the reason, five million is a startling figure, and one that the ACLU simply cannot and will not accept. We hope you won’t either.
All of these restrictive measures have been enacted in the name of reducing “voter fraud,” yet scant evidence exists that it occurs at all. Here in Maine, the much-trumpeted investigation into alleged fraud by college students exposed absolutely nothing – other than an unfortunate abuse of authority designed to intimidate young people from exercising their Constitutional rights. What the evidence has shown us is that same-day voter registration increases turnout. In fact, according to another independent study recently released by Nonprofit VOTE, Election Day registration is one of the main reasons why our state ranked first in the nation in voter turnout for 2010.
We should be proud that our turnout rate is the highest in the nation. We should hold it up as a sign that we are doing things right and that our citizens are actively engaged in the democratic process. Instead, we are faced with a law that will turn eligible Mainers away from the polls by adding an unnecessary burden to the voting process. We are not alone in this struggle, but thanks to so many of you who committed and dedicated your time during the hot summer months, we have been granted a unique opportunity to right a wrong and to keep our election system open to everyone who is eligible to participate.
On November 8th, vote “YES on 1” and make sure that the State of Maine does not contribute to the ghastly figure of five million.