A lot of people are focusing on the defeat of Mississipi’s “personhood” initiative. This is, indeed, an excellent thing, but what caught my attention happened in Maine.
In Maine, where a Tea Party-aligned Republican, Paul LePage, squeaked to victory in the governor’s race last year, voters restored same-day voter registration, which had been eliminated by LePage and his Republican allies in the Legislature earlier in the year. Like eroding collective bargaining rights, tightening restrictions on voting has emerged as another major point of emphasis for Republicans in statehouses across the country this year. The new laws that have been enacted or proposed generally affect traditionally Democratic constituencies disproportionately. The outcome in Maine wasn’t even close on Tuesday: 60 percent of voters defied LePage and the GOP and embraced same-day registration.
Sadly, Maine isn’t the only state where this has happened and needs to be corrected. Across the country, Republican-controlled state legislatures are trying to restrict voting rights to those who can produce current state ID to prove identity and residence and whose residence is stable enough that they can register significantly before an election and vote while living at the same address. And many of those states make it much harder to remove bad laws.
The supposed rationale for this legislation is voter fraud, but that’s been shown time and again to be insignificant even within the scope of elections like the last couple major ones in Minnesota. The voter fraud that has been found here is less than the tiny margins by which Al Franken and Mark Dayton won their hand recounts. For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist. What does exist, however, is a campaign to disenfranchise minorities and the poor.
My Congressional representative, Keith Ellison, has had enough. He’s created the Voter Access Protection Act and Same Day Registration Act and would like you to sign a petition to support it.
Voter Access Protection Act
To prohibit election officials from requiring individuals to provide photo identification as a condition of obtaining or casting a ballot in an election for Federal office or registering to vote in elections for Federal office.
Same Day Voter Registration Act
Each State shall permit any eligible individual on the day of a Federal election and on any day when voting, including early voting, is permitted for a Federal election —
(A) to register to vote in such election at the polling place using a form that meets the requirements under section 9(b) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993; and
(B) to cast a vote in such election.
Yes, this particular piece of legislation stands no chance in the current Congress. Sign on anyway. They won’t be in power forever (about 14 months by my count). Ellison will be there when the change happens to reintroduce the bill, and there’s nothing like an active voting populace to remind freshly elected Democrats that being the lesser of two evils isn’t enough these days.