Protecting Votes

On August 8th, the Maine People’s Alliance and a broad coalition of ally organizations delivered more than 68,000 signatures to the Maine Secretary of State, ensuring that a referendum to protect the right of Maine people to register on Election Day will be on the ballot this November.

Never before has a People’s Veto campaign succeeded in making the November ballot without hiring a professional petition gathering firm. From the beginning, the coalition decided to run a grassroots campaign focused on volunteer engagement. In the end, this incredible feat was accomplished through the hard work of more than 1,500 volunteers, representing every county and almost every town in Maine.

The outpouring of support for this campaign was nothing short of phenomenal.

There are two main reasons why we exceeded our goals. First, we had more volunteers working longer hours and gathering more signatures than we had planned for or had hoped to engage. Second, we had a much more enthusiastic response from Maine voters than we had anticipated. The rate of signature collection at public events and door-to-door was higher than the rate reported by other campaigns. This is due to both general understanding of the simple, common-sense nature of the issue and widespread support for protecting voting rights and maintaining Maine’s culture of fairness and democracy.

These factors bode well for the future of this campaign and for our chances in November. Based on the experiences of the campaign so far, we can likely expect a high level of grassroots and volunteer engagement and a very supportive electorate.

The right to vote is one of the most fundamental ingredients of American democracy. Here in Maine, from town hall meetings to the highest voter turnout in the country, Mainers are proud of our history of strong civic participation.

The bill that Republican legislators passed in June flies in the face of Maine’s democratic values—legislation that will end Maine’s 38-year-old law to allow same-day voter registration. Under the new law, if you haven’t registered by mail at least 21 days before the election or in person at least five days before the election, you won’t be allowed to vote.
If you have ever realized a few days late that your car inspection sticker is overdue, or found yourself running to the Post Office to mail your tax return on the day of the deadline, you know what it feels like when life gets busy and important details fall through the cracks. In Maine, being able to register at the polls and then cast your ballot has ensured that thousands of Mainers don’t lose the right to vote because of a problem with their registration they may not have even been aware of until Election Day. In fact, in 2010 over 50,000 Mainers registered to vote on Election Day.

What will this new law mean to Maine people?

It will mean that the elderly Mainer who moves across town to a nursing home and forgets to change their voter registration address will be turned away from the polls on Election Day. It will mean that young people, who are moving frequently between college and home—and many times don’t even know where they’ll be living month to month—will lose the right to vote. This new law could affect every one of us at some point in our lives, but it undeniably affects low-income people, the disabled, young people and people of color more than other groups.

Maine established the right to vote on Election Day 38 years ago precisely because Maine legislators understood that a strong democracy demands that voting is straightforward enough to ensure ALL Mainers can make their voices heard.  And the law has worked—Maine consistently boasts one of the highest percentages of voter turnout in the nation.
Why would lawmakers want to make it harder to vote in Maine? Some proponents of the new law claim that the change is needed to address issues of voter fraud in Maine. This claim has absolutely no merit. There have been two cases of voter fraud in the past four decades, and only one of these had anything to do with voter registration. Other proponents claim that the law is meant to address problems with town clerks being overwhelmed with long lines of people wanting to register on Election Day. But town clerks themselves have opposed this new law from the beginning and so has the Maine Municipal Association.

If there’s no problem with voter fraud in Maine and if municipal town clerks see the new law as inhibiting their ability to ensure everyone in their communities can vote, where did this legislation come from? It turns out that new Republican majorities are seeking to do similar things in other states. This year there have been efforts across the country to require voters to have identification cards at polling places, to limit the time of early voting, to make it more difficult for third parties to register new voters and, yes, to eliminate same-day registration.

Eliminating Election day registration  in Maine is part of a coordinated Republican strategy to suppress voters that conservatives believe won’t support their candidates in the 2012 elections.

Our democracy should not be a game where players can change the rules in the hopes of giving themselves a better shot at winning.

This campaign is about defending the kind of democracy this country was founded on. It’s about honoring Maine’s legacy of being ahead of the pack when it comes to ensuring that legitimate voters aren’t turned away the polls. It’s about taking a stand against Governor Paul LePage and the pro-corporate, anti-democracy agenda of his administration and his allies in the legislature.

We can win this, but we’ll need your help. To get involved and to stay up to date on our efforts, please visit