Maine has some of the most inclusive election laws in the country.

Maine residents can vote in person at their local polling place, or request a no-excuse absentee ballot that can be returned by mail or dropped off at a municipal office any time within a month before Election Day. Maine is so committed to making sure that every voice is heard, it’s one of only two states that allows felons to vote while they are incarcerated.

Registering to vote is also easy – it can be done at any time before the election, up to and including Election Day itself. But it’s not as easy as it could be. Maine is one of only 10 states that does not allow voters to register online. Along with New Hampshire, we are the only state in New England that doesn’t offer its voters this important option.

Maine does give voters an opportunity to mail in a voter registration application, which can be requested online. But the slowdown in mail service resulting from operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service makes this an option only for those who think well ahead.

It should be easy to register and vote. Our system works best when every voice is heard. Mainers can be proud that their state is typically a national leader when it comes to voter turnout.

But it’s not easy for everyone. Voters who go to the polls for most or all elections and have lived in the same place for a long time never have to update their registration and can request a ballot or vote on Election Day without making any special effort. The same is not true for occasional voters, especially those who have moved since the last time they voted. It’s an especially heavy burden on low-income and young people. For them to exercise their constitutional right, they have to navigate a confusing system and plan ahead. It’s understandable that many don’t bother.

An online registration option would be more in step with the way people are used to doing business. Many people apply for work, buy groceries, pay bills and file their tax returns online.They ought to be able to register to vote, too.

This should be an issue on which all political parties can agree. Maine is one of the best states in the country when it comes to voter participation, and Democrats, Republicans and an independent have won statewide races over the last decade. There is no partisan advantage to letting everyone vote.

While it’s too late for this election, Maine should make one more reform. We need online registration.


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