President-elect Donald Trump and Gov. Paul LePage are both lying about this year’s election.
Trump maintains that voter fraud prevented him from winning the national popular vote, which he actually lost to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by more than 2.5 million — a butt-kicking his ego is having trouble sustaining.
And LePage has called into question Maine’s elections during public appearances and letters to newly elected lawmakers. Again, with no evidence.
Their goal is simple: They want to convince their followers — who are unencumbered by and unconcerned with facts — that there is rampant election fraud so that they can pass draconian measures meant to deny people their right to vote.
Without evidence — and, in fact, in the face of contradictory evidence — Trump and LePage are laying the groundwork to further disenfranchise voters whom they suspect don’t support them.
Masters of public manipulation, Trump and LePage know that in our new post-fact world, some of their supporters will uncritically believe anything the two men utter, regardless of reality.
Across the country, there have been concerted efforts to adopt policies and laws that make it more difficult to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court rolled back protections in the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and states have taken advantage, particularly those states controlled by Republicans.
There’s simply no counter-factual example of Democrats trying to make it harder to vote. Instead, in states with Democratic governors or Legislatures there have been significant efforts to reduce barriers to voting.
According to the Brennan Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for voting rights and election reform, since 2010, 20 states have placed new restrictions on voting and registration, including 14 that did it in 2016 in preparation for the presidential election.
The laws range from voter purges to strict photo ID requirements to reductions in the number of polling places and the number of days and hours people can vote earlier. For all the changes, the intent is the same: Make it harder to vote.
We might never know the implications. But The Nation, a progressive magazine, ran the numbers in Wisconsin, a state that Trump surprisingly won over Clinton.
Trump won Wisconsin by about 27,000 votes. But about 300,000 registered voters lacked the appropriate documents to vote under Wisconsin’s voter ID law. “Voter turnout in Wisconsin was at its lowest levels in 20 years and decreased 13 percent in Milwaukee, where 70 percent of the state’s African-American population lives,” the magazine reported in November.
Reporter Ari Berman told the story of a 99-year-old man who made two trips to vote and one to the DMV on Election Day, an enormous hurdle. And when Margie Mueller, 85, “wasn’t allowed to vote with her expired driver’s license, her husband, Alvin, decided not to vote as well.”
In case it must be stated, the voting restrictions target people who tend to vote for Democrats.
We’ve been through this before in Maine. After LePage took office in 2011 and Republicans won the state Senate and the state House, they rammed through legislation to make it harder to vote by eliminating same-day voter registration.
Then Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Republican leader Charlie Webster spun themselves into a tizzy trying to document voting fraud, only to find just the opposite. Voters overturned the rollback of voting rights with a people’s veto later that year.
But I think there’s a new attack coming, both on the national and state levels to make it harder for people to register and to vote.
While there are a lot of things about the election in 2016 that broke form, one thing stayed true.
Mainers take voting seriously, and they vote.
More than 750,000 Mainers either cast an absentee ballot or showed up on Election Day. I believe our state will be one of the leaders in voter participation when all the numbers are finalized, just like we were in 2014.
They’re also protective of those rights to participate.
But LePage and Trump are betting that they can whittle away at those numbers.
For the first time ever, Maine split its electoral votes this year, with Clinton winning the First Congressional District and the state overall and Trump winning the Second District.
Certainly, that’s bad for Democrats, but Republicans have done a good job of spinning the election results to suggest a more thorough GOP victory than actually occurred.
Clinton won the state; Democrats picked up two seats in the state Senate and maintained control of the state House; and voters passed four progressive ballot initiatives, despite vigorous opposition from the governor.
When the Legislature returns, I expect to see new efforts to make it harder to vote, and we’ll see changes proposed that would make it harder for referenda to get on the ballot.
LePage did not win a majority in Maine in either election; Trump lost the state and he lost the popular vote by a substantial margin.
Nonetheless, Trump is president and LePage is governor and they show that they will use that power to drive down trust in our institutions for their own gains.
Now, they’re going to try to take away your voice and make it harder for you to vote. Don’t stand for it.