Maine has many serious problems, so it’s only natural the Legislature would devote all its efforts to finding solutions.
Except there’s nothing natural about the Legislature (warning: contains androids, invasive species and random bits of plastic), so it’s no wonder legislators dither away their time on insignificant matters. As everyone in this state knows, actual issues of importance are settled by referendum.
Shuffling complicated policy questions off on the voters frees legislators to cavort across the political landscape pursuing all sorts of mythical creatures. From Republican state Rep. Lawrence Lockman’s obsession with radical Islamic terrorists hiding in sleeper cells in Wytopitlock to Democratic state Rep. James Handy’s inspired effort to force dogs in cars to wear seat belts to GOP state Rep. Beth Turner’s bold initiative to allow people who don’t want emergency medical care to get “Do Not Resuscitate” tattoos on their chests to Democratic state Rep. Matthea Daughtry’s “An Act Regarding the Regulation of Rabbit Production for Local Consumption,” lawmakers fill their days with careful consideration of trivialities.
Which would be fine if these excursions into fantasy had no real-world consequences. But all too often they do. Thanks to Lockman’s xenophobia, immigrants are regarded with unwarranted suspicion. Handy withdrew his bill, but not before I got all paranoid about letting my dogs stick their heads out the car windows. Turner will have to answer to her right-wing constituents who think adding “Do Not Resuscitate” will alter the message conveyed by their chest tattoos of Steve Bannon. And Daughtry is going to catch flack from Christian conservatives convinced her bill will lead to condoms for cottontails.
But these concerns pale in comparison to the potential fallout from another piece of legislation proposing a solution to an imaginary problem. Republican state Rep. Bradley Farrin of Norridgewock (town motto: Radical Islamic Terrorist-Free Since 1788) believes our democratic system is under siege by squadrons of fraudulent voters.
In Maine’s 2016 election alone, there was one case of someone voting illegally. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, there have been four such attempts in the last 22 years. And those were just the ones who got caught. If we figure in the fake voters who escaped detection, the total could be 10 or more. That’s enough to change the results of this many major elections: zero.
Nevertheless, as Thomas Jefferson never said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance (Jefferson actually said the price of liberty is $49.99 plus tax). Without safeguards, it’s only a matter of time before radical Islamic terrorists, unrestrained dogs, tattooed dead people and pregnant bunnies are sneaking into polling places and casting ballots. In Lockman’s hometown of Amherst, this could already be the case. Which would explain a lot.
Farrin’s bill would require all voters to show a photo ID. Acceptable identification would include a Maine driver’s license (not currently accepted by the federal government because counterfeiting it is easier than convincing rabbits to copulate) or a state-issued ID card (I got mine about 35 years ago, and, strangely enough, it’s still valid, even though it shows the wrong address and my hair is darker than a stereotypical radical Islamic terrorist). Anyone who didn’t have one of those would be eligible to receive a special free ID from the state at a cost to taxpayers of more than half a million dollars (which turns out to be the current inflated price of liberty).
There are a few problems with this plan. First, it would force ballot clerks across the state to look at thousands of extremely unbecoming photos. Mainers may be no uglier than the national average (looking down at you, Mississippi), but everyone’s ID photo, with the possible exception of Gisele Bündchen’s, is transformed by some secret government process into appearing to show a face that’s recently undergone an ineptly performed autopsy.
Second, anybody who’s going to the trouble of voting where they’re ineligible to do so is probably capable of obtaining false identification. They won’t mind the inconvenience. It’s part of the job of being a fake voter. They can probably write off the expense on their income tax.
Third, a law like this will stop some honest people from voting. And even one case of that is too many.