The League of Women Voters of Maine is 99 years old today. Our birthday is Valentine’s Day, and this year we’re sending a love letter to Maine’s nation-leading democracy.

After all, there’s a lot to love. In Maine, we have some of the strongest voter participation in the nation. We have Clean Elections and same-day voter registration. We have ranked-choice voting in our congressional elections.

But before the League of Women’s Voters turns 100, we’d like to get more done.

We want full participation in our elections; to fulfill the dream of a government truly of, by, and for the people; a system where everyone has a voice, and everyone’s voice matters.

What will it take? We need to tear down the barriers to voter registration and access, all the obstacles that make it tougher for working people, those with special needs, the elderly or families with little kids to participate. We need to make it as easy as possible for eligible people to vote.

The first way to make voting easier and more accessible is automatic voter registration, a commonsense modernization of the voter registration process. Automatic voter registration securely registering eligible citizens to vote when they get or renew a driver’s license or change their address with a state agency (like the Department of Motor Vehicles). It makes voting accessible for those Mainers who have difficulty keeping their registration updated-members of the military, people with disabilities, and senior citizens, among others.

Another solution is true early voting, which gives municipalities the option to implement early voting for up to 30 days before an election. This simple administrative improvement reduces voter wait times and burdens on town clerks. True early voting, where voters complete a ballot and put it directly into the ballot box or scanning machine, is better than an absentee ballot system, in which ballots are collected but not recorded until Election Day.

Lastly, we should replace Maine’s system of a presidential caucus with a presidential primary election. In each of the last several presidential elections, Mainers have endured long lines, long drives, and chaotic processes to participate in caucuses. Many have given up in discouragement. Maine voters will be better served by an actual election, which encourages broader participation and greater turnout.

All of these measures are designed to make it as easy as possible for people to exercise their right to vote. But will people vote just because they can? They have to believe that their vote matters, or they won’t bother.

Part of that is election security. We’re supporting a measure to introduce both process audits and ballot audits in Maine elections, reducing the risk of an incorrect outcome and improving voter confidence in election protocols.

It’s also important for voters to be able to choose the candidate they most prefer without feeling as if they have “wasted” their vote. Passing a constitutional amendment to expand ranked-choice voting to the general election for governor and state legislature will do just that, ensuring that those lawmakers represent the majority of Mainers.

To build additional confidence in the importance of an individual’s vote, Maine should join the National Popular Vote Compact. Once states possessing a majority of the nation’s electoral votes join, this bill would guarantee the presidency to whichever candidate who receives the most popular votes.

Lastly, voters deserve to be confident that when a representative is elected, they will represent their constituents rather than their campaign contributors. To achieve this, we support a ban on contributions from lobbyists to state legislators.

It took nearly 100 years of activism to pass the 19th Amendment. Yet in 1920, in most parts of the country, only white women could vote. It took another 45 years for African Americans to secure access to the ballot; Native Americans only gained that right in the 1970s. And in many parts of the country today, too many people are disenfranchised as a result of ID laws, restrictive voter registration, and a racially-biased judicial system.

Maine legislators have introduced over 100 proposals on election reform this session. Some are doctrinaire. Some are quixotic. Some are impractical. Ours are grounded in evidence-based solutions, simple, administrative solutions that really work

No one bill, and no one organization, can do it alone. But together, we can make it happen. We hope you join us in this fight.

Anna Kellar is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine (www.lwvme.org).

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