Once upon a time the people gave birth to democracy. Then they clothed it in the Constitution and amended it as time exposed better ways to insure a long and healthy life. The people’s right to vote was the key to a government for and by the people.
In 2010, a single, 5-4 misguided decision, Citizens United v. FEC, redefined a right to influence voting that was not “the people” by declaring political spending was a form of protected speech of people and corporations. The next blow was the 2013 removal of Section 4(b) in the Voting Rights Act. These two decisions have set the stage for a crumbling of democracy and a rise in oligarchy as money becomes the master.
Maine is fortunate to have a strong citizen base of voters who had already established Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) as an effective tool for maintaining a people’s democracy. Question 1 on November’s ballot is an amended MCCE that increases transparency on wealthy special interest money. We recently saw the unveiling of large $300,000 to $1.25 million donors after a 5-year battle when the courts supported the Ethics Commission’s (EC) ruling that NOM (National Organization for Marriage) violated state law by trying to conceal its activity and donors. Transparency of government and those who try to influence government is key to viability of a strong democracy.
Lincoln County is fortunate to have elected officials like Rep. Mick Devin and Sen. Chris Johnson who complied with all MCCE regulations and used their small donations to run positive campaigns. This is easily verified at the EC office. Less money reduces negative advertisements, and when Rank Choice Voting is on the ballot, negative ads will reduce even more as candidates will spend more time elucidating the voter on candidate values, understanding of citizen needs, and vision of the future. When we keep democracy strong, we keep Maine strong.
Jarryl Larson, Edgecomb