The voters of Maine appear to have registered a stinging rebuke to their Republican Governor and Legislature's attempt to kill the state's 38-year tradition of Election Day voter registration at the polling place.
As the Lewiston Sun Journal reports tonight: "And it wasn't close."
That's an understatement. The People's Veto of the GOP bill was on the ballot tonight and, if the results are accurate as reported, the people of Maine couldn't have been clearer. Question 1 has is said to have passed by a remarkable
61 to 39% 60 to 40% margin (with 90% 98% 100% of the results in), quite literally winning in every single county in the state:
The overwhelming victory for voters' rights in the Pine Tree State comes on the heels of Maine's GOP Chair Charlie Webster embarrassing himself and his party over the last several months with his complaint to the GOP Sec. of State Charles Summers, Jr. that out-of-state college students were committing "voter fraud" in the state.
Despite some 200 names Webster submitted to Summers for an investigation, no evidence of fraud was found by the SoS. That lack of evidence of voter fraud, however, didn't keep Summers from sending intimidating letters to those legal student voters.
Nonetheless, Mainers of all stripes today appear to have soundly rejected the GOP's "voter fraud" fraud in their People's Veto at the ballot box.
"The advantage we had was the truth," David Farmer, a spokesman for Protect Maine Votes told the Sun Journal. "The facts carried the day. Same-day voter registration works and it has for nearly 40 years. Unlike other states, Mainers wouldn't stand for the erosion of their voting rights. They should be very proud of that."
They should indeed.
The contrast was stark, however, from results being reported in Mississippi tonight...
While a far-Right initiative to declare personhood for fertilized eggs was reportedly soundly rejected by voters in MS, those same voters are said to have voted in favor of a restriction requiring state-issued Photo ID to be presented at the polling place before otherwise legal voters are allowed to cast their vote.
Unlike in Maine, where all votes are cast on verifiable paper ballots, most of Mississippi casts its ballots on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems. So whatever the final results are announced to be, we'll all simply be forced to take their word for it.
If the bill passes, as now predicted, it would affect tens of thousands of MS voters --- largely minorities, elderly and students (read: Democratic-leaning) --- who may very well be disenfranchised by the new restrictions in 2012.
"This law has nothing to do with combating voter fraud and everything to do with disenfranchising low-income, elderly and minority voters," Nancy Abudu, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project told AP. "For a state with a sorry history of voter suppression, this is another shameful day."
The hopeful news, however, is that, given its long history of racial discrimination, MS is one of the states covered by Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. That means any new election laws will need to be precleared by the U.S. Dept. of Justice before they can be implemented. If the DoJ finds the law would discriminate against minority voters, it will have to be rejected.
Similar laws passed by Republican legislatures in southern states over the past year --- such as in South Carolina and in Texas --- are currently being questioned by the DoJ. Given the DoJ's queries sent to the two states, it's quite possible the laws may be rejected there before the 2012 election cycle gets underway in earnest.
Disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions passed by Republican legislatures elsewhere, in states not covered by Section 5 of the VRA, may face their own legal challenges before 2012. In Wisconsin, for example, the GOP's new Photo ID law is now facing a suit filed by the non-partisan League of Women Voters who hope to block the new voter suppression law before it takes full effect next year.
The GOP War on Democracy continues. Tonight, however, they faced one spectacular loss in Maine, even as they scored a possible big "victory" in Mississippi.