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Congresswoman Pingree, thanks very much for your time today.
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: So, same-day voter registration has been around for 37, 38 years in Maine. Have there been any problems with it that led to its repeal?
PINGREE: Absolutely not. I think there have been two cases of voter fraud in our state, only one of which had anything to do with same-day registration. This is clearly, in my opinion, a way to suppress the vote, to discourage voters.
Frankly, it"s an attack on working people. I mean, many people don"t have two separate days to get to the polls. It seems to me in these difficult times what we want is voters, engaged citizens, people who get out to vote.
Maine has one of the highest engagements in elections--I think we"re third highest in the country. I"m proud of that in my state. And I know that taking away same-day registration is going to limit that.
MADDOW: From your experience, and I know--I know you have followed this issue for some time, do you think that limiting access this way, in effect, limiting the size of the electorate, has a partisan effect? Do Republicans benefit more from fewer voters than Democrats do?
PINGREE: Well, they seem to feel they will. They"re the ones really behind this.
This was a very partisan vote. I think only two Democrats voted with the Republicans to keep this right for voters.
But the Republicans claim, oh, people get bused to the polls. I think what they really don"t like is student engagement, student voting. It"s my opinion that we want young people to vote and to engage to vote. But the fact is, Governor LePage was elected under same-day registration. A tremendous number of people registered to vote on the same day. I think it was something like 60,000 people in the election last year.
So, he benefits from it. Democrats benefit from it. Frankly, I think we all benefit from it.
You know, I was kind of thinking about it today and I thought, OK, many of the people who are pushing this, who want to take away your right to vote and register on the same day, are the very same people who don"t want to have a waiting period before you buy your gun. So, you should have a waiting period before you vote, but not before you buy a gun.
MADDOW: What do you think about the rollback of the child labor laws in Maine?
Governor LePage didn"t get everything he wanted in the child labor law rollback, but he did make a big public showing about it. He liked to brag about this as one of his policy positions and he did succeed in getting work hours expanded for teenagers who are in high school.
Who do you think that ultimately benefits?
PINGREE: You know, again, this doesn"t make any sense. We want students to be engaged. We want them to have family time. We want them to may on their school teams. And we want them to do their homework.
Staying up even later hours, more work, there"s no logic behind it, if you really want to encourage, you know, good behavior on the part of young people. The fact is, it"s a way to drive down wages, to pay young people less wages, which doesn"t make any sense in a time when we have relatively high unemployment, so we have plenty of people who aren"t students, who want to work in those jobs, so it"s not as if we"re desperate to find more workers.
But I think it benefits employers who want to pay lower wages, and so, they want to increase the number of young people in the marketplace so they don"t have to pay adults a somewhat better wage.
MADDOW: Big picture, in terms of your state, you"ve been in public service for a long time in the state of Maine. And do you feel like the reaction in the state is that people knew what they were getting when they elected this governor and this legislature? Or do you feel like people feel surprised by the turn that things have taken since this--since the folks that they elected have been governing?
PINGREE: Oh, I think people are very angry. I hear about it every weekend when I"m home. In fact, I think I hear more about state politics right now sometimes than I do at the federal level. I think people are very upset about the attack on the environment, the attack on labor laws, the taking down the murals.
You know, this legislature attempted to put toxic chemicals back into sippy cups. I mean, it"s just one thing after another.
I think people are very proud of our state. We"re not a liberal state. We"re not a conservative state. We"re a common sense state.
And many of these things don"t make any sense to people. And it feels a little bit like this is an agenda that came from the outside. This is a very conservative agenda.
You know, in Maine, we say, like a lot of people, if it ain"t broke, don"t fix it. So, there"s nothing wrong our election laws. In fact, we think they"ve been good for civic engagement.
Where did this idea come from and why did they push so hard to make it happen? It seems to me it"s part of a bigger agenda to keep people from voting, to take away our rights as citizens, and to undermine the very fundamentals of democracy. These voting laws and the suppression of voting worries me about as much as anything that"s going on in the states right now and this is only going to spread.
MADDOW: Well, that--what you--those questions that you"re raising right now is what made us realize and want to comment on the sort of strange intersection of what"s going on in Wisconsin and Maine, two states that do not adjoin, that are not next to each other, that don"t necessarily have anything in common here, that are following a very similar and somewhat strange path. I think there are forces at work here from outside the states that deserve more scrutiny.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine, it"s been a real pleasure to have you here. Thanks very much.
PINGREE: Thank you.
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