The right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American. If we don’t like the decisions our elected officials are making, we can simply vote them out.
Maine Republicans and the Wall Street interests who bankroll their campaigns are now trying to make it harder for working Mainers to vote, by taking away our time-honored right to register to vote on Election Day. If we have less of a voice, it will be easier for them to stay in power ~ and continue giving tax breaks to the wealthy while ignoring the needs of the other 99%.
During the summer, over 1000 volunteers collected more than 70,000 valid signatures in just 23 days to force a referendum vote. This Tuesday, Maine people will vote on whether they should have the right to... well, conveniently register to vote.
GOP operatives have centered their campaign around fear of “voter fraud” and those ever “pesky college kids.” Throughout the summer, GOP Chair Charlie Webster has led a crusade against those “pesky college kids.” He insists they are committing voter fraud because they’re from “away.” It doesn’t seem to matter that the US Supreme Court settled squarely on the side of college students in the 1970s. Students can vote where they live, even if that is on their college campus.
That did not stop Secretary of State Charlie Summers (yep, there really are two Charlies) from sending official letters to 206 college students Charlie Webster had accused of voter fraud (for voting legally, by the way). Secretary Summers asked them to either register their cars in Maine or fill out the “enclosed form to cancel their voter registration.”
At least one of those “pesky college kids” didn’t have a car to register.
This media charade about college kids and real or potential “voter fraud” by the two Charlies has been to distract Maine people from the real target of this new law: Independent Voters.
In 2008, 49,666 Maine people registered to vote on Election Day. Of that, 52.74% chose not to enroll in either of the two major parties. In 2010, 18,364 Mainers registered to vote on Election Day. Again, 51.68% chose not to join either of the two major parties.
These are voters who have decided the two-party system doesn’t work for them ~ and now that very system is telling them they shouldn’t be allowed to vote at all.
Across the country, Republican lawmakers are rolling back voting rights. The Brennan Center anticipates more than 5 million people will be unable to vote in the 2012 election for president.
If Yes On 1 prevails, Maine will be the first state to successfully fight back.
Last week, opponents of same-day registration spent hundreds of thousands of dollars ~ largely out-of-state~ on deceptive advertising funded by anonymous donors.. And it’s working. Polls show the race is a statistical dead heat.
However,individual Mainers are fighting back with neighbor-to-neighbor conversations. Volunteers are making calls on their cell phones or are out knocking on doors.
The social media has also caught fire. In just a couple of days, more than 2,000 people from around the state and across the political spectrum had signed an online “Pledge to vote Yes On 1” I started. Many commented they had already cast their ballots.
The reason is clear. Mainers realize it’s time their leaders worry less about their own job security and more about the job security of the people they represent. That means treating our vote as the fundamental American right that it is.
After all, voting the bums out is the American Way.