Senate Democratic Radio Address Discusses Voting Rights in Maine

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

SENATE DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS

Good Morning. This is Senate Democratic Leader Barry Hobbins of Saco. Thank you for tuning in.

Like many of you, I spent the Fourth of July surrounded by friends and family. I participated in a number of celebrations from barbeques to watching a parade. But it wasn’t until the end of the day when the local fireworks display lit up the sky with bursts of color that I had time to reflect on and remember why this holiday is so important. It is so much more than a day of good eating and fanfare. It is the most patriotic holiday America has to celebrate. It’s the celebration of the birth of our nation.

While we remember that the Fourth of July is the celebration of our independence-we must also remember why freedom and independence were so important in the eighteenth century and why it’s so important now. I am reminded of the pre-American Revolution slogan: “No taxation without representation.” Our forefathers gave their life for the basic right to VOTE. Our countrymen fought to break free from the rule of the Monarchy in exchange for a direct vote and direct vote on our government. And through the decades, this right has expanded to all Americans-not just property owners. And, in fact, each and every milestone expanding our right to vote was also celebrated as a hallmark of our democracy. How many military engagements, just in our life time, have been in the name of spreading the values of Democracy? And so it is, that I speak to you today with a bit of wonderment as to why most members of the Majority Party in this last legislative session worked so doggedly to chip away at our most valued and respected rights-the right to vote.

Of particular concern are two measures attacking our voting rights that came before the legislature this session. One has to do with requiring a photo ID each and every time you vote-not just when you register. This measure-while very worrisome-has been held over until next January’s session. And I promise you that I, along with my Democratic colleagues, will fight tooth and nail against this measure.

The other bill, which has since been signed into law by the governor, eliminates same-day voter registration. Same-day voter registration has existed in Maine for nearly forty-years. And for forty-years there have been a negligible number of voter fraud cases-and of those cases, none were the result of same-day voter registration.

In 2008, more than 60,000 people in Maine registered to vote on election day. Maine has one of the highest voter participation records in the country. Maine people value their right to vote.

Voting rights and same-day voter registration is not and should not be a partisan issue. It doesn’t fall into the liberal or conservative category. In fact, the charge for same-day voter registration in Maine was led by a Republican and passed with strong bipartisan support back in the early 1970s. So, why are we, forty years later, rolling back and denying people their right to vote on election day?

During the debate of this issue, I’ve been struck by the lack of trust the Majority Party seems to have for Maine residents. If you listen to their argument, they would have you believe that Maine people are corrupt and can’t be trusted. They tell stories (unsubstantiated stories) of the Boogeyman-Maine-voter…in search of an unsuspecting town clerk in order to “game the system” with an extra vote.

I believe that Maine people have strong civic pride-and yes, many vote and support their candidate or cause with fervor. But that does not mean that Maine people are criminals or without ethics or respect for the voting process. In fact, it is with great insult that I hear some make false accusations that there are “bus-loads” of out of state people going town to town to vote.

I hear some say, “well if voting is important enough to you, you’ll find the time to register before voting day.” Sure. But, not everyone has the schedule that I have or you have. For example, my good Democratic Senate colleague from Allagash will tell you that he and other Maine loggers that he works with often come straight from the woods to vote on voting day. Their schedule is such that they work long hours, often spending weeks in the woods. And, in more rural areas of the state, town halls are not open five days a week. And, of course, there are others that will be impacted: single parents, families working more than one job-perhaps shift jobs where it’s not so easy to take time off. How about the kid who turns eighteen ON election day? Regardless of circumstance, it is not for you or I to judge and decide whether or not someone who wants to vote on election day could have “worked a little harder” to get there before election day. That is not the point. The point is that for forty-years Maine has had same-day voter registration. For forty-years there have been no cases of fraud relating to this practice. Town clerks across Maine do not think there are issues or problems relating to same-day voter registration-in fact, no one testified in favor of this law.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a bipartisan coalition has formed to seek a citizen’s initiative, a people’s veto, repealing this law. I hope that you, like me, will agree that the Constitution and in particular our right to vote should not be politicized based on an extreme, national agenda. We must repeal this law and restore voting rights to the tens of thousands of people who will turn out this November to cast their ballot. Every vote matters.

Thank you for listening. I’m Senate Democratic Leader Barry Hobbins and I wish you a great weekend.

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