By Barbara Kaufman and Jill Ward
The 2015 election is one for the books, and there is some good news and some not-so-good news.
The Good News: The 2015 Voter Turnout graph below shows that, through approval of Question 1 on this year’s statewide ballot, most Mainers want a more accountable, transparent election system that values voters over donors. By a 10-point margin, Maine voters passed the Clean Election initiative, which would strengthen Maine’s landmark public financing system, require more disclosure of the top donors on the political ads, and exact stiffer penalties on those who break Maine election law.
The League of Women Voters of Maine helped organize and support this effort from its very beginning, and we are thrilled that it passed.
The Bad News: More than 740,000 registered Maine Voters didn’t vote this year. Good government and strong democracy requires active citizens. Voting is the most basic way to be engaged, and the League is committed to continuing our efforts to register voters, study the pros and cons of current issues, and educate Mainers through forums and debates, blogs and newsletters.
We know Maine can and has done better. Last year, Maine led the country in voter turnout and has consistently ranked in the top 5 states for voter turnout in recent years. Part of why Maine does so well is that we have implemented policies that encourage civic participation by making it easier to register and to vote. No-excuse absentee ballots and same-day voter registration are just two of the policies supported by the League that have made access to the polls easier for thousands of eligible Maine voters.
Throughout the state, dedicated League volunteers also help register voters at high schools, colleges, and U.S. Naturalization Ceremonies. So far this year we have registered close to 400 new voters. Since 2007, the League has published and distributed non-partisan, Easy-to-Read Voter Guides and held many forums around the state to help educate voters.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
Citizen engagement is so critical to making our democracy work. If you are interested in helping the League with our ongoing voter registration efforts, training is available, and new volunteers are needed. Please contact Barbara Kaufman, Voter Services Committee Chair at email@example.com.