Bowdoin College Republicans, Democrats Join Forces To Protect Voting Rights In Maine

This is the fourth installment in an ongoing series on voting rights leading up to Election Day 2011.

In June, the Maine legislature adopted a bill repealing the state’s 38-year-old law allowing citizens to register to vote on election day. LD 1376 narrowly passed along partisan lines, with a handful of Republicans joining every Democrat to oppose the measure.

Now, as Maine’s citizens prepare to vote on a veto referendum determining election day registration’s (EDR) fate, two surprising allies have joined forces to protect voting rights in the Pine Tree State: Bowdoin College Republicans and College Democrats.

Though Republican lawmakers were behind the effort to repeal EDR, Bowdoin College Republicans broke with their party to support Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot and maintain a system that has done a great deal to boost turnout among students.

ThinkProgress spoke with the leaders of both the College Republicans and College Democrats to get their thoughts on what EDR means for students in Maine. Watch it:

Robert Flores, co-chairman of the campus Republicans, said the decision to support election day registration was an easy one for him. “[Republican Gov. Paul] LePage and several Republican higher-ups registered same-day,” noted Flores. “If it’s good enough for LePage, it’s good enough for everyone.” Flores said same day registration was a major asset when trying to turn out students on election day because he could tell them, “you still have an opportunity to vote, it’s not too late. Get out there.”

College Democrats co-president Judah Isseroff agreed, saying that EDR has “always been a boon to voting turnout” among students. Many students, he noted, changed dorms year to year without realizing they needed to update their voter registration file; EDR allowed them to do so without being disenfranchised. Isseroff estimated that hundreds of students on campus had benefited from same day registration.

Polls show young voters overwhelmingly support maintaining Maine’s election day registration law. Though voters as a whole are split – 48 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed – those under 30 side with EDR by a 61-39 margin.

Read ThinkProgress’ first dispatch on the Question 1 vote here.