Commentary

Requiring Photo ID to Vote Protects Our Democracy

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There is no question that our right to vote is fundamental to our freedom. It only makes sense, then, that we should do what we can to protect that right.

Given the media firestorm that we experienced over the Senate District 25 election recount, this bill is particularly timely. We need to keep in mind that the power of our democracy is derived from participation in the electoral process. Cynicism about our system of government should be addressed; we should not give the media reason to print headlines decrying the results of our elections based on party preference and knee-jerk reactions to skewed information.

We’re fortunate in Maine – we have small towns and small communities where everyone knows each other. But that only goes so far. People move in and out of towns in today’s world, and they do so often. College students travel from state to state, and clerks and election volunteers simply can’t be expected to know everyone who walks in to vote.

That’s where the simple action of presenting an ID comes in. An action people undertake every day to buy alcohol, buy cigarettes, rent a car, board a flight, get a marriage license, get a tattoo, get a hotel room, buy R-rated movie tickets, or cash a check.

In 31 states, some form of identification is required to vote. Courts have regularly upheld the legality of requiring a photo ID to vote, and 74% of Americans polled by Rasmussen support some form of voter identification requirement.

A lot of folks already think it’s a requirement to show your driver’s license or other photo ID to vote in Maine. I’ve heard from volunteers that many people show up to vote, and not only give their name to the person checking them in, but also have their driver’s license ready to hand over. If people expect it already, implementing this law would be a fairly simple transition.

Opposition to the voter ID requirement has been mostly partisan in nature in recent years. A committee vote in 2011 on a similar proposal in the Legislature saw all five Democrats on the panel vote in opposition.

One of the primary arguments coming from Democrats against requiring a photo ID to vote is that the cost is prohibitive. Well, the bill I’ve presented to the Legislature this year addresses that by requiring the Secretary of State to provide non-drivers license IDs to citizens who cannot afford to purchase a state ID. This will mean the bill will have a cost, but to me protecting our democracy is a cost worth incurring. What do we have left if we can’t trust those leading our government were fairly elected?

The legislation also doesn’t fully prevent people who don’t have an ID from voting. Instead, they would cast a provisional ballot. In crafting this legislation, I’ve taken great care to ensure we are protecting the integrity of our election system while protecting citizens’ right to vote.

I’m hopeful we can get this common sense measure through the Legislature this year. In order to protect all other freedoms, we must protect and defend our election system.

About Ron Collins

Senator Ron Collins is currently serving his third term in the Maine State Senate. He represents the people of Senate District 34, which consists of Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, North Berwick, Wells, and part of Berwick. He is the Chair of the Transportation Committee for the 127th Legislature, and is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs.

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