Editorial: Don’t take their word for it 

If you haven’t yet checked your mailbox, brace yourself for the onslaught of oversized cardstock flyers filled with questionable statements from people who you know should know better.  

Spoiler alert: Election mailers are back.  

You might also want to be prepared for the soon-to-be barrage of radio and television ads that generate a cacophony of messages that, when fact checked, don’t hold up too well.  

Given that it is not an election year, the overall number may be less, but the “facts” are likely to be just as dubious.  

Persuasion is a form of communication that has been around since the dawn of time. Its ability to target hearts and minds with rhetoric is something that predates Aristotle. It is also a multi-billion-dollar industry that employs social science to enhance profits. That last part is something that should be weighed heavily when trying to interpret the messages. 

In 2018, close to $200 million dollars was spent in Maine trying to win those hearts and minds. The Susan Collins and Sara Gideon race alone counted for the bulk of that sum, but it blew Maine’s previous record of $22.3 million in 2008 right out of the water.  

As you pick up each mailer, remember that it was paid for by a candidate or a political action committee – also known as a PAC – and its sole intent is to sway your decision.  

It is never just as simple as voting ‘Yes on 1’ or ‘No on 1.’ And the senders, who know from their own research that ads provoking fear are much more likely to resonate, are relying on you not to do your own research and accept their facts as presented.  

This election cycle, all Maine voters will get to weigh in on three referendum questions: a citizens’ initiative that would ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region; a $100M bond to build or improve roads, bridges, railroads, airports, transit facilities and ports and make other transportation investments; and a constitutional amendment to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.  

We urge our readers to do their own research this election cycle to see through the mixed messages being wielded about and not to rely solely on mailers and sound bites. Take the time to visit reputable websites, to read the legislation behind the questions and to engage your friends and neighbors in a healthy way that furthers discussion on these important topics.  

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