Politics & Other Mistakes: Poll dancing

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I’m all for making sure Maine elections are secure. But requiring a photo ID doesn’t go nearly far enough. Anyone can fake one of those things, as a quick check of any Old Port bar on a Saturday night will confirm.

Before casting a ballot, voters should be required to submit to a DNA test. That would weed out the one or two creeps statewide who occasionally try to vote illegally. Also, it would be a good way to determine if your parents were faithful to each other before you were born.

Al DiamonInexplicably, there are no bills in the Legislature to institute this sensible reform. Instead, we have a measure from state Sen. Eric Brakey (R-South Park) to outlaw ballot drop boxes. These secure metal containers have been shown to harbor diseases, illegal aliens and underage drinking parties.

“Drop boxes were approved as an emergency measure,” Brakey told the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, “yet here we are three years later and drop boxes are still being used.”

Brakey also claimed the boxes were paid for with private money (probably George Soros’ insidious work), although it turns out that is neither true nor particularly relevant. What is to the point is that so far there have been zero cases of fraudulent ballots detected in these containers.

Which just goes to show how porous our security is.

It’s amazing that Brakey hasn’t also called for the dismantling of all U.S. Postal Service mail boxes, because some trusting voters use those unsecured receptacles to send in their absentee ballots. Little do they realize they could be handing their vote to squirrels, raccoons or homeless people who’ve taken up residence among the insurance company ads, pleas from questionable charities and annoying mailers from Central Maine Power warning about the horrible consequences of voting for public power.

But the lack of secure places for you to dispose of your ballot is hardly the only flaw in our electoral system. There’s also the little matter of what can be said to you as you approach the polls on election day.

It’s perfectly legal to stand outside a voting place and tell passersby that no matter how they cast their ballots, they’ll be electing an idiot. That’s because such a statement is not only true, it’s constitutionally protected free speech. But that particular right only goes so far if the speaker is within a few feet of a polling place and happens to be running for office.

It’s legal for candidates to greet voters by introducing themselves (“Hello, I’m state Sen. Eric Brakey, and I’m just going to draw a little bit of your blood to make sure you’re a legitimate voter”). What’s not legal under Maine law is for politicians to say the four most dreaded words in the English language:

“Got any spare change?”

Oops, sorry, those are the wrong four words. The ones candidates really can’t say as they encounter voters are:

“Please vote for me.”

As absurd as it seems, I’m not making that up. This law is supposed to prevent harassment of voters, even though harassing people is already illegal. But for some overprotective bureaucrats, that’s not enough. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows told a legislative committee, “any scintilla of electioneering has no place anywhere near a polling place.”

Bellows used to be the leader of the Maine ACLU and a fierce defender of free speech, but now she spends her days worrying about those nasty scintillas. In this case, she was testifying against a bill sponsored by GOP state Sen. James Libby of Standish, who wants to loosen the law to allow the polluting of the pristine atmosphere of the polling place with the foul four-letter word “vote.”

Even though this legislation is co-sponsored by Drop-Box Brakey, this isn’t a crazy idea. The main opposition to it comes from the likes of the League of Women Voters. The league’s advocacy program director, Will Hayward told the committee that passing candidates on the way to vote “can feel like running a gauntlet.”

No doubt, a gauntlet lined with scintillas. Just the place to draw a little blood for DNA testing.

If I raised your blood pressure, email me at [email protected].

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