The Maine State Legislature plans to soon vote on two bills that together would make it substantially more difficult for college students to participate in Maine elections. The first, LD 199, would require a Maine state ID for voter registration. The second, LD 203, proposes to mandate that all voters must be registered a week prior to filling out their ballots. The former would require that students who wish to vote in Brunswick obtain a form of Maine state identification listing the address of their campus residence.
A new ID would be legally required with each change of address, effectively forcing students to renew annually. All students, originally from Maine or not, would be affected. LD 203 would impede voter registration drives and make it significantly more difficult for college students to register in time for elections. In addition, the cost of the new cards would have to be picked up by either voters or the state.
The alleged justification for these laws is defense against voter fraud. This is a mere façade. Recently, the Portland Press Herald reported that "Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, who oversees election matters, said she knows of only two voter fraud cases in her 16 years in the office."
While the proposed legislation might theoretically reduce fraud, it will surreptitiously place obstacles between students and the voting booths. Not only would students have to register a week prior, but their resolution to vote would have to come weeks before that, when they would need to apply for a new state ID or license. The aim of the legislation seems to be to trap students into forgetting this process in advance, forcing them to vote in their guardian's place of residence—or not vote at all.
Because many students have the ability to vote in two different states, we become an easy target. Legislators, by making it more difficult to vote in Maine, would effectively be encouraging us to vote in our home state. The passage of both measures threatens to dilute the influence of college voters. Students, however, are not the only group affected; among others are low-income Mainers who change residences frequently, and of course, the homeless.
The fact of the matter is that students who live in Brunswick have the right to vote in Brunswick. There ought not be roadblocks in our path to exercise this right.
We, like Bowdoin Student Government, deplore this bill. We live in a democracy—a democracy where voting is meant to be accessible for all. For the students who choose to vote in Maine, we do so because this is our home, and we have the right to express the power of our vote.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Linda Kinstler and Seth Walder.