Last month, a report published by the Brookings Institution and The Ash Center of Harvard’s Kennedy School outlined the importance of voting, calling it a fundamental civic duty while also arguing that it should be universal and should also accompany other voting reforms such as automatic voter registration at state agencies, restoration of voting rights for citizens with felony convictions, early voting, expanded mail-in voting and no-excuse absentee voting.
“Imagine elections in which 80 percent or more of our people cast their ballots—broad participation in our great democratic undertaking by citizens of every race, heritage, and class, by those with strongly-held ideological beliefs, and those with more moderate or less settled views,” is written in the preamble to the report. “Our intervention reflects a sense of alarm and moral urgency, but also a spirit of hope and patriotism.”
During each election cycle, through the act of voting, those who cast ballots are choosing a way forward. Candidates have defined agendas and their past history is likely an indicator of how they will govern once in office. But also remember that the person for whom you are voting, if elected, will then cast votes on bills on your behalf.
In the first half of Maine’s 129th legislature, lawmakers introduced 2,242 bills and brought 842 to completion. Some of the bills that were passed dealt with the state’s Death with Dignity Act, made changes to motor vehicle laws, established conditions for storage and handling of livestock products and increased benefits for emergency service providers. In other words, the bills—and the votes—have real impact on daily life. From the food we eat to the emergency services that help in a time of need, lawmakers are making decisions that we have to live with.
Over the coming months and weeks, local voters will be inundated with campaign messages across all mass media outlets. From newspapers to television and, of course, all the mailers, candidates will be vying for your vote and will be telling you all the ways in which they can help you to live your best life.
How do you know who to believe? Or better still, how do you know who to choose?
One oft-running TV spot from Sara Gideon says something like, “When I hear the things people are saying about me, I hardly recognize myself.” I am sure she is not the only politician to feel that way. The rhetoric used in political advertising is often intentionally misleading and the linguistic gymnastics are meant to confuse the voter into believing something about the candidate that may or may not be true. Because of this, it takes real work to figure out who is being truthful and which messages are worth listening to.
We urge readers not only to read the pages of this paper in the coming weeks while we work to bring information about voting and candidates to you, but we also encourage you to read more. Visit candidates’ websites and social media pages to get to know them and what they stand for.
The Maine Secretary of State maintains a website of voter information including instructions on how to request absentee ballots, listing of candidates and ballot questions as well as voter and election data. Most common voting questions can be answered with information on this site.
In addition, the League of Women Voters of Maine also hosts a wealth of voter information on its website.
Every election is critical to democracy and the ability to vote is a right that should not be taken for granted. We urge every voter to get informed, to seek out information and to vote.
Vote by mail or vote in person.