As American citizens, one of our most precious rights and solemn duties is to vote. The active participation of our citizens is vital to a functioning democracy.
Just this week, new Voter ID laws went into effect in two states, West Virginia and Iowa. Across the nation, legislatures are recognizing the need to protect our sacred right to vote. They realize stronger measures must be put in place to protect the ballot box from those who would abuse it.
Because our neighbor New Hampshire has a Voter ID law, we have data we can use to examine patterns in voter behavior for individuals voting with no ID or with an out-of-state ID.
On Election Day in November 2016, 5,903 people registered to vote in New Hampshire for the first time using an out-of-state license.
The data is revealing. Not surprising, most of the IDs presented were from Massachusetts, about 38 percent of the 5,900 registrations. Those were followed by IDs from other nearby states: Connecticut, New York, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Many races have been decided by just a few votes, so tolerating any kind of voter fraud could reverse the outcome of an election.
It makes sense that New Hampshire’s college towns would have the highest rates of out-of-state voter registration. It is not illegal for these college students to vote in New Hampshire—and it is not illegal for out-of-state college students to vote in Maine.
However, if they vote at college, they should not be allowed to vote by absentee ballot in their home state. If out-of-state students want to vote in their college town, they should meet the residency requirements, just as anyone else who chooses to live and work and vote in Maine must do.
It is not a hardship to require an ID for voting. An ID is already required for buying alcohol, for driving a car, for cashing a check, for boarding a plane, for starting a job, for checking in to a hotel and for many every-day activities.
In fact, I was required to show my ID the other day when I was picking up a prescription in the pharmacy. It’s not unreasonable to ask for voters for an ID as a simple way to safeguard the most sacred right we have in our democracy.
That’s why I will submit a bill this session to require Voter ID for Maine elections. We must discourage voter fraud, and we must ensure that non-citizens and non-residents are not voting in our elections.
At the start of this election year, we see people in other nations who do not have functioning democracies protesting in the streets and risking their lives. They are fighting to make the freedoms we take for granted here a reality in their own country.
This year, let us do all we can to prevent fraud in our electoral system.