Listen: http://www.mainesenate.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/diamond_radio_address_0611.mp3

Good Morning. Thank you for tuning in to the Democratic Radio Address. This is Senator Bill Diamond. Presently, I am the State Senator representing Windham and surrounding towns. But not so long ago I served as Maine’s Secretary of State. As the Constitutional officer leading the state’s elections, I saw first hand democracy in action. There are basic tenants to our democracy that we all agree on, for example:

“Every vote counts.” That’s what we’ve been told since our first civics classes.

The Constitution—it’s the law of the land that guarantees our democracy.

The First Amendment—perhaps the most revered right in this nation. And casting our vote is one of the best ways to exercise our First Amendment right. Thousands have fought for this right—and thousands have waited decades, generations even, to have the right to vote.

Earlier this week, our rights got a little slimmer. How so?

The Legislature—led by my Republican colleagues—proposed a bill that eliminates same day voter registration—the ability to go to the polls on election day to register to vote and then to vote there.

Some may not see the harm in making these changes. Perhaps, like me, you’ve lived in the same town for several years. But let’s look a little closer. Let’s, for a moment, think about our neighbor…our new neighbor. Or our elderly parents and grandparents. Or perhaps even our college-aged child and the 18 year old who is voting for the first time. These are the people who will be impacted the most.

But they’re not the only ones hurt by this change. Also impacted are people who are simply doing the best they can to juggle multiple demands like their jobs and kids. We must look beyond our own personal situation and acknowledge that some times, some people find it difficult to register to vote until election day.

And for thirty-eight years Maine has allowed—and some times even encouraged voters to register and vote on the same day only because we embrace voter participation. And for thirty-eight years this has occurred without significant incident.

So I am not clear why some of my Republican friends in the legislature are working so hard to stop this long-held right. Eliminating same day voter registration isn’t fixing a problem. In fact it’s creating a problem for tens of thousands of people who will be told they cannot vote when they go to the polls on election day.

Did you know that in 2008, more than sixty-thousand Mainers registered to vote on election day? That is remarkable that under this new law they would have been told they can’t vote!

It is remarkable that in a state of this size so many people came out on election day to vote either as a first time voter or first time voter in a new community. I’m proud of this. I’m proud to say that I live in a state that values civic expression. I’m proud to say that I live in a state that consistently ranks among the top in the nation for voter turn out. And, I’m proud to say that I live in a state where voter fraud has not been an issue for decades.

Contrary to what some would have you believe, there are not “bus loads of out-of-staters being driven around” to vote in multiple elections. And if that were to occur, there are criminal penalties in place to punish offenders. We cannot pass a law that will disenfranchise tens of thousands of people in order to prevent a “just in case” situation.

Eliminating same day voter registration is chasing a boogeyman man that doesn’t exist.

Eliminating the right for people to register to vote on election day is a solution to a problem that also doesn’t exist.

Some would say we’ve made this change to help the town and city clerks. But not one town clerk has testified that registering to vote on election day is a burden. We also did not hear that there are cases after cases of voter fraud.

Placing barriers to the voting booth diminishes the importance of Democracy. The Constitution is a living document that is meant to be immune to political influence. Unfortunately, those who are trying to prevent people from registering to vote on election day will literally be stopping thousands of people at the polls on election day saying, “Stop! We’ve changed the rules. You can’t vote.”

We all know that every vote really does count. And Democrats in the legislature stand ready to continue defending your Constitutional rights.

Thank you for listening. Again this is Senator Bill Diamond. Have a great weekend.

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