Declaring residency

Last month, Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard sent a letter to the 221 voters in that city who had registered to vote on Election Day last year, reminding them of their responsibility to also register their vehicles and obtain a Maine driver’s license or ID.

Those state laws requiring registering a vehicle within 30 days after moving to Maine, and obtaining a driver’s license within 90 days, are often honored in the breach.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap issued a full-throated condemnation of Bouchard’s letter, saying it amounted to voter intimidation. There’s no connection, he argued, between the right to vote and these other requirements.

“Those requirements were not crafted with the intent to pose as barriers that must be overcome before a citizen can exercise the right to vote,” he said.

It’s appropriate for Dunlap to defend voting rights, including same-day registration. We agree with his assessment that voter fraud is so rare as to be a nonissue, while encouraging everyone to exercise their right to vote should continue to be a top priority.

But it’s also fair for municipalities to ask for the vehicle registration fees they’re owed to help pay for vital municipal services. The issue was raised in Bar Harbor last year during debates about parking permits, when landlords who rent to college students and other shorter-term residents asked whether their tenants who haven’t registered their vehicles here would be able to receive resident parking permits.

The answer was the town may not write local ordinances that conflict with state law, and the state law requires registering cars within 30 days.

It’s fair for residents enjoying the benefits of residency by participating in local elections also to pay their fair share of local fees and taxes.


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