Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

Amy Fried is a political science professor at the University of Maine. Her views are her own and do not represent those of any group with which she is affiliated.

Across the country Maine is known for having high levels of civic participation, in voting and beyond. Like the New England politics observed by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831, Mainers have deep levels of commitment to community and the common good.

Maine elections are well run, involve lots of potential voters and are deserving of celebration — and certainly not denigration.

Each election year local election officials — our town clerks — work closely with the secretary of state’s office and volunteer nonpartisan and partisan poll watchers.

During the pandemic, this crew of democratic heroes sprang into action, ensuring that Maine people could safely receive and cast their ballots. One 2020 innovation was a state website to check if a requested absentee ballot had been sent to one’s home and then received back for counting.

Given Maine voters’ great track record of voting and the excellent way elections are administered in Maine, it’s distressing to see wholly unsubstantiated fraud claims. Such allegations undermine trust in elections and can cause anger, anxiety and, as seen on Jan. 6, 2021, even violence.

One Maine group asserts that they have “evidence of how Maine election officials commit maladministration of the People’s most important business – our elections.” But this organization is confused about how elections and other governmental matters work. An ad for a talk by one of their leaders suggests it’s suspicious that “a surge of votes” was reported late on election night 2020 although that happens every year. That group advises people to download an affidavit to create a “people’s grand jury,” a body that doesn’t exist in our legal system, in order to force Maine to follow provisions in other states’ constitutions, which also makes no sense legally or constitutionally.

If it was only marginal operations that denigrated Maine elections, perhaps it could be ignored. But unfortunately that’s not so.

Much like the fringe Maine group, Donald Trump falsely claimed that votes from cities, which always take a long time to be counted and where a large percentage of votes typically go to Democratic candidates, were fraudulent because he was ahead before they were included in state tallies.

Congressional candidate Bruce Poliquin won’t say if Biden legitimately won the election.

Last week former Gov. Paul LePage alleged that in 2009 people from Massachusetts came in buses to vote in Maine. LePage also said he informed then-Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. Dunlap says he was never told this — and would have investigated such reports.

As a newly uncovered video shows, in October 2021, LePage told a political gathering that “same-day registration is really bad” and suggested that tens of thousands may have voted illegally in 2020.

After LePage became governor in 2011, a law ending Election Day registration was passed by the GOP-controlled Maine Legislature and signed by LePage. It was quickly and easily overturned by a People’s Veto. During that time, Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster claimed a lot of Maine elections were stolen and said fraudulent voters came in buses. “They bring them in buses. Job Corps people — they move ’em around to wherever they have a tough seat and they want to win an election.”

Not only are Webster’s and LePage’s purported buses like the Loch Ness Monster, something scary for which no one has evidence — but out-of-staters can’t just stroll into voting places and vote.

As the Maine voter guide explains, to register to vote, people need both proof of their identity and proof of their residency for where they want to vote. Poll observers and staff manage voter lists with checks at multiple steps in the process. Concrete facts like these probably won’t persuade conspiracy theory true believers but can counter lies and misinformation.

It may be that some who cast doubt on the integrity of Maine’s elections simply don’t know the finer details of election administration. Or there may be other reasons and motives afoot.

Whatever the case, it would be good to educate the public about ballot matters, for our town clerks, the Secretary of State’s Office and local volunteers run Maine’s election system quite well.

And we should proudly proclaim our state motto — Dirigo — because, with elections, Maine leads.

Avatar photo

Amy Fried, Opinion columnist

Amy Fried has written about the media and politics, women in politics, Maine and American political culture, and political activism, and works to create change through the Rising Tide Center. A political...