Here’s your license, now get into that voting booth
Having killed a perfectly good photo voter ID bill in late April that was backed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Maine's Democrats are bidding to use the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to cram the voting rolls with people who can't be bothered to take a minute to register.
Under the National Voter Registration Act (motor voter law), all state DMVs must offer voter registration forms. But state rep. Jared Golden, the Democrat whip, wants more than this opt-in stuff. A bill he introduced on March 30 requires turning anyone who does business with the DMV into a newly minted voter. Mainers still can opt out if they are feeling undemocratic.
Mr. Golden insists that although Maine already has one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation, there are still some folks out there who, darn it, just won't register unless it is automatic for them. He stopped short of offering to come to their homes and brush their teeth daily.
The bill got enthusiastic backing from – whom else? – the ACLU.
"As a strong democracy that wishes to remain strong, we should seek ways to encourage more Americans to vote and eradicate unnecessary limits placed on participation in the process," said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, who considers having to present valid identification an "unnecessary limit." So far, the ACLU of Maine has not tried to "eradicate" such limits where people purchase beer, cash checks, board a plane, or apply for welfare. One wonders why.
On the flip-side, the Maine Municipal Association's policy committee opposes Golden's bill because its members "hold the belief that people should wish to be registered to vote by their own reckoning and should be required to take at least one small affirmative step in order to effect that interest before being registered," said Geoff Herman, director of state and federal relations.
There is a valid privacy concern as well. Doing business with the DMV is unavoidable for anyone functioning in the modern age. Using lists compiled there for other purposes violates the right to be left alone and leaves the reluctant signee open to whatever the government wants to do with the list.
Last week, it was unclear what argument, if any, was central to killing the photo voter ID legislation. Some Democrats who salivate at every spending opportunity actually argued with a straight face that it might cost too much to administer.
The usual progressive tactic is to accuse voter ID bill sponsors of racism. But this may not be very effective in a state where 95 percent of the population is white, and thus "suppression of minority voters" would not make a big difference. It might resonate, however, in Mr. Golden's home district in Lewiston, a city of 36,000 of whom merely 86 percent are white and which includes a sizeable Somali Muslim immigrant population.
The two actions – killing voter ID and trying to force people onto the voter rolls – speak volumes about the progressive election agenda.
Where government is synonymous with religion, the state takes a dim view of nonparticipants. In fact, it considers them heretics to be herded toward the nearest voting booth.
It shouldn't be surprising that the folks who love more government are loosey-goosey about who actually shows up to vote.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.