I may have voted illegally.
On election day, I tried to do everything strictly by the book but apparently, I screwed up. I went to my town hall on Nov. 8 and cast my ballot in the usual fashion, after which I helped myself to the delicious coffeecake the town clerk bakes for these occasions.
I only had two pieces. OK, maybe three. But my wife didn’t have any, so it almost averages out.
Nevertheless, I felt comfortable with my civic participation until I learned the entire system may have been corrupted. I discovered this when Republican Gov. Paul LePage sent a letter to newly elected legislators calling them into session on Dec. 7. This is a routine communication that all governors (even crazy ones) employ as part of their official duties. What wasn’t routine was LePage claiming he had “strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine’s ballot and the accuracy of Maine’s election results.”
So is the guv saying Donald Trump didn’t win Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and doesn’t deserve one of the state’s electoral votes?
Is LePage claiming the GOP cheated in order to hang onto its majority in the state Senate and to narrow the Democrats’ edge in the House?
Is he intimidating the voters who cast ballots against the referendum requiring background checks for private gun sales finagled the returns to defeat the proposal?
Or is he just annoyed that college students can legally vote where they go to school, immigrants who’ve become citizens are allowed to participate in the process, and the rest of us don’t have to show government-approved identification before casting ballots?
LePage attempted to clarify his position by issuing a statement demanding “100 percent certainty” that no ineligible person voted, adding, “if even one vote was counted improperly,” the election was essentially invalid.
In the wake of this outburst, my vote now feels sort of illegitimate – like I somehow pulled off a scam I didn’t even know I was attempting.
To step away from LePage for a moment and return to the real world, it’s worth noting that voter fraud in Maine is extremely rare. Even if you haven’t been all that careful with your chainsaw and are missing a few digits, you probably have enough left over to count all the instances of ballot manipulation in this state in the last several decades and have fingers left over. According to the Portland Press Herald, there has been exactly one case reported to the attorney general this year. No election of any consequence was decided by that slim a margin.
Nevertheless, the myth of rampant voter fraud persists.
In 2011, Charlie Webster, then chairman of the Maine Republican Party, announced he had a list of over 200 college students who should be investigated for voting illegally. Webster later admitted he couldn’t find any evidence to back up his claim.
That same year, Republicans passed legislation abolishing voter registration on election day, only to have it overturned by a people’s veto. But as our guv and prez-elect have noted, the system is “rigged,” so how can we trust those results?
After the 2012 election, Webster told WCSH6-TV, “In some parts of rural Maine … dozens of black people … came in and voted on election day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in [these] towns knows anyone who’s black.” Webster later told the Press Herald, the Moorish hordes of illicit voters amounted to “hundreds,” but no municipality where these invaders appeared was ever identified, perhaps because town clerks were too busy baking coffeecake to notice.
To combat these intrusions, GOP legislators repeatedly introduced bills to require photo IDs for all voters. During debates in 2015, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason said, “It is incredulous that we would claim that there is no voter fraud in Maine.” It is, however, fairly credible to say there isn’t much evidence of it.
Nevertheless, the state should err on the side of paranoia. Clearly, my ballot ought to be declared invalid. I’m writing to the secretary of state to demand I be disenfranchised.
Everyone else should do the same because the only way to ensure fair results is to reduce the turnout to zero.