Mainers want more integrity in our elections

By Sen. Matt Pouliot

According to Harvard University Kennedy School’s Electoral Integrity Project, the confidence in the American election process has been on a downward trend since 2012. The Perceptions of Electoral Integrity or PEI results in the Project’s 2019-2021 Global Report dropped from a high index score of 84 in 2012 to 23 in 2020. It shows Americans have lower confidence in our elections now versus a decade ago.

Hello, this is Senator Matt Pouliot from Kennebec County. It’s my pleasure to join you for this week’s Republican Radio Address.

Matt Pouliot – Kennebec

You would think our nation would rank the highest in the world, but electoral integrity in the U.S. is ranked 59th. The dramatic decline in the PEI index began in 2016 when Democrats began challenging the legitimacy of the presidential election that year; and in their December 2020 report, the Electoral Integrity Project indicated systemic problems still persist across many states, including:

  • Unfair and unbalanced campaign coverage by local press and TV news while social media amplified misinformation;
  • Campaign finance that lacks transparency and equitable access;
  • And a worsening of confidence in the integrity of American elections and falling public trust.

While Maine has traditionally scored in the top 10 nationally for electoral integrity, the State has likewise seen declines in several PEI scores from 2012 to today, namely the indexes for unbalanced or unfair media coverage, unfair electoral laws, and public trust in the results.

When I introduced LD 34, which would require voters to present a photo ID before they vote, I did it with the knowledge that 80 percent of Americans already support some sort of ID requirement according to a Gallup survey. My goal in doing so was threefold:

First, I want to increase Mainers’ confidence in the integrity of Maine’s elections.

Second, I want to encourage those who may feel disenfranchised and have voluntarily stepped to the sidelines to reengage in our elections.

And third, we all should want to have more accountability and transparency in any of our government processes. This is critical.

It wasn’t until last month, however, when the University of New Hampshire issued their Pine Tree State Poll that showed 63 percent of Mainers also support it. Yet a small number of Democratic lawmakers still want to stonewall the wishes of nearly two-thirds of Mainers who think this is a good idea, including a partisan secretary of state not elected by the people and a governor who – on this particular issue – is clearly on the wrong side of public opinion.

If you think about it, you need an ID to:

  • Open a bank account;
  • To buy alcohol or a pack of cigarettes;
  • To buy a cell phone service contract;
  • To get on an airplane;
  • To be hired at a job and work;
  • To pick up a prescription;
  • To purchase a car;
  • To donate blood;
  • To buy a firearm;
  • To buy a house;
  • To check out a library book;
  • And yes, even to drive.

Their contention is there would be a fair amount of Mainers who would be left out of the electoral process, including the 100,000 or so they say don’t have a valid ID. I say let’s spend the half million dollars to get an ID to those who don’t have one. It’s pretty simple.

In fact, my Republican colleague Sen. Jeff Timberlake recommended just that to his Veterans & Legal Affairs Committee this week and they passed it unanimously.

Look, 35 states already require an ID to vote and two more – Nebraska and Ohio – are currently implementing it. It doesn’t matter whether you believe fraud or voter impersonation exists – the few cases over the years prove that it can and it does. The only thing that matters in any government process is whether we can put in safeguards to prevent fraud from happening at all.

I mentioned earlier that Maine ranks in the top 10 nationally when it comes to how we perceive our electoral integrity. Yet nearly two-thirds of Mainers believe we can do better.

I think the time is now that we listen to those people and we make this change.

Again, this is Senator Matt Pouliot of Kennebec County and I hope you have a great weekend.

Senator Matt Pouliot is serving his third term and represents Senate District 15. He is the Senate Republican Lead for the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee and the new Joint Select Committee on Housing.

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