2012-01-30 / Opinion


Ballot box barrier dodged

Last week’s decision by legislators on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee to table action on a bill that would have required voters to show photo identification before casting ballots represents a victory for the democratic process in Maine.

As the influence of lobbyists and corporate contributors grows, the ballot box offers one of the few remaining places where individuals can affect the course of government. We ought not let those who wield power enact laws that make it more difficult for citizens to exercise the few remaining rights that haven’t been marginalized.

Demanding that voters prove their identity while continuing to allow third-party campaign contributors to shield theirs transcends irony. It’s unjust and a real assault on democracy — not a manufactured threat like the scare tactics employed last year by Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster and Secretary of State Charles Summers in their efforts to eliminate Election Day voter registration.

The legislative committee’s decision not to pursue the voter ID bill this year now allows Summers to focus on what his predecessors as secretary of state managed to do for decades: protect the integrity of the state’s electoral system rather than fretting about it publicly for political purposes.

Spare — no expense

The American Automobile Association of Northern New England issued a warning last week to inform the public that some auto manufacturers have stopped including spare tires — even the “dinky donut” kind — with new models.

Apparently, removing the 40 or so pounds that some spare tires, a jack and associated tools weigh will help vehicles meet new federal emissions standards.

“That may seem like a small amount but every little bit helps and unlike other weight saving changes, it doesn’t add cost to the vehicle,” the AAA release states.

Potential new car buyers should grill salespeople about this new tactic, and whether their major new purchase will come equipped with a spare tire or just a can of sealant and a good-luck wish.

Stripping safety items from new vehicles poses unnecessary risks and inconveniences for drivers. A more reasonable and responsible way to meet fuel efficiency standards that still don’t exceed 30 miles per hour would be to build vehicles with more efficient engines.

At least they’re trying

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Elizabeth Warren, his likely Democratic opponent in this year’s U.S. Senate race signed a pact last week to discourage third-party ads. Each candidate pledged to make payments to a charity of his or her rival’s choice if outside forces buy ads to affect the contest.

They merit high praise for at least attempting to stem the influence of dark outside forces that lurk at the periphery of campaigns and strive to buy elections and the power they yield.

Skeptics are already swarming, but at least this pair took a stab at swatting back. “Government to the highest bidder” doesn’t have to be inevitable.

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