Dissing Democracy

Dismissing democratic concerns and marginalizing majority motives in Maine

Mike Tipping has a fine post-election piece spelling out the importance of the election-day registration issue for democracy in Maine and beyond. Tipping says:

Making it more difficult for people to have their voices heard in the most fundamental way — through casting ballots in a fair and open election — was seen by many as an assault on the unique democratic culture and fundamental values of the state of Maine.

But, as Tipping points out, after the election, one of the most prominent supporters of this effort to limit access to the ballot on election day, whose group devoted significant resources to the effort, now claims that the issue, well, just didn’t matter all that much.

Tipping quotes such a leader saying that election-day registration was “such an arcane issue” and so it would unlikely to affect how voters evaluate political leaders.

This statement is but a continuation of a long line of statements dismissing democratic concerns and marginalizing the motives of those who supported election-day registration, a group that turned out to be a clear majority of Mainers.

Here’s some more:

“I don’t think there’s any ground swell among regular people for this,” says Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party.

“The extreme left-wing groups and individuals behind this signature gathering effort have every right to try to pursue it,” [Nutting] said Monday. “At this point, it’s too early to tell whether they have enough valid signatures to get the question on the ballot. If they do, I’m confident that Maine voters will reject it.”

As for what I thinkI would prefer it if fewer people voted. We have all been conditioned to assume that higher turnout is desirable and healthy when it often — as is the case with same-day registration — is not.

Webster did not specifically reference Election Day voter registration at his press conference on Monday, but spoke more generally about the problems he sees with Maine’s voting system. The GOP chairman said he personally has witnessed what he called “poll flooding” by special interest groups. Asked to name those groups, Webster listed MoveOn.org, ACORN and, “obviously, the Democrat party has a plan to do that too,” he said. So, is Maine’s Democratic Party a special interest? “In my opinion they are … The difference is we [Republicans] represent regular people, how’s that? We represent working class people, people who drive a truck. We don’t represent the far left of Maine.”

Most so-called “People’s Veto” efforts to overturn laws passed by the legislature are the result of a grassroots reaction to legislative overreach. The “Yes on 1” campaign this year is different. . . [T]his referendum has no basis in actual voter concern. . . The MPA doesn’t represent the people of Maine. They didn’t represent the people of Maine when they gathered a mob to intimidate bank tellers in Brunswick, and they don’t represent the people of Maine in this contrived referendum to keep municipalities from verifying the integrity of our elections.

I believe that any special interest group that would spend thousands of dollars to repeal this law must have a hidden agenda! I don’t know why they chose this issue, but I am convinced that they didn’t do so because they believe in same day voter registration.


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.