Topical articles from members of our community.
It has now been well over a year since Republicans lost control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, yet rather than accept reality and work to improve their voter-appeal (articulating a coherent party platform would be a good start) they have contrived to mount an insurrection and undertake on a campaign of lies calling into question the integrity of an election they clearly lost by a wide margin. Equally offensive has been their effort to distract from an early failure to take the corona virus seriously by characterizing all efforts to defeat the pandemic as violations of God-given American freedoms.
What these freedoms consist of is anyone’s guess. The Constitution, after all, makes no mention of a freedom to spread deadly disease. Then too, what ever happened to the notion that freedom isn’t free? –that it is paid for by true patriots such as the Ukrainians now giving their all for their country. For Republicans, meanwhile, patriotism seems to have no greater champions than a bunch of self-appointed militia wannabes intent on obstructing traffic from the comfort of their well-appointed trucks.
Much has been said about the threat such Republican “protests” pose to our democratic traditions, but in truth they are attacks on the notion of government itself. According to English philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, government is based on an idea known as the “social contract,” a metaphorical agreement whereby at some point on our path to adulthood we all consent to join organized society. Hobbes in particular argued that this consent inevitably entails giving up certain freedoms in order to gain the blessings of human civilization—sacrificial freedoms like the ones today’s anti-vax truckers insist on asserting with such mindless conviction.
Arguably the greatest blessing of American democracy is its grounding in the liberal ideology of thinkers like Locke and Hobbes, whose views were widely adopted by our Founding Fathers and have lighted our way ever since. It remains to be seen whether the principles they espoused will continue to prevail against those here at home and in Putin’s Russia who would sacrifice truth and the Common Good for subversive ends.
Securing the Vote
Americans are told repeatedly that we can do something to help change things for the better, if we vote. But does each and every one of our votes still count?
Maine’s Independent Senator Angus King is spearheading a bill, designed to update the antiquated Electoral Count Act. He is joined by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).The bill, called the Electoral Count Modernization Act, would support free and fair elections in which all of our votes do indeed still count. Senator King maintains that new laws are needed to inhibit attempts to disenfranchise voters, and that those laws would help secure our election procedures from bad actors like last year’s January 6 insurrectionists, or those who try to overturn elections by shouting “fraud” when there is none.
A discussion draft of the Electoral Count Modernization Act was released in February. In the words of Senator King, “The bill would address many of the concerns vocalized by experts across the political spectrum with the current Electoral Count Act, including the role of the Vice President, how states certify electors, and the threshold needed to challenge election results.”
He goes on to say, “This is an incredibly important effort – but updating the Electoral Count Act should not be mistaken for a substitute for confronting the wider crises facing our democracy. I continue to support legislation to protect voting rights prior to Election Day, and strongly believe that we must clarify ambiguities in the electoral process after Election Day to truly ensure the will of the voters will prevail. Together, my colleagues and I… look forward to contributing to a strong, bipartisan effort aimed at resolving this issue and strengthening our democracy.”
There are many threats facing our democracy here and around the world. The war forced upon Ukrainians by Russia’s ex-KGB leader presents the most pressing example, creating both a political and humanitarian crisis. And the fact that there are those in this country who have openly expressed approval of Mr. Putin for his “strong leadership” provides ongoing evidence that we are not immune from such threats. We must protect and defend democracy to preserve our system of government and hand it over to our children. Ensuring the right and access to free and fair elections for each and every American is the surest way to accomplish this.
Ranked-choice Voting in Maine
I have heard too many voters express relief that Maine will use Ranked Choice Voting in this year’s election for Governor. Unfortunately, this is not true. On May 23, 2017 Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous opinion advising that Maine ranked-choice voting law conflicted with Maine’s Constitution so that it could not be used in General Elections for Governor, the Maine State Senate, or the Maine House of Representatives—these are offices for which plurality voting is specified in our Constitution.
Maine has a tradition of electing governors with pluralities well below the level of a majority: Angus King won his first term as Governor in 1994 with 35% of the vote, John Baldacci won in 2006 with 38.1%, and Paul LePage won in 2010 with 37.6% (he won in 2014 with 48.2%). Since 1990 only two of our Governors were elected by a majority of voters: Angus King in 1998 by 58.6%, and Janet Mills in 2018 by 50.9%.
At this point the following have announced they are running for Governor:
Democratic Party: Janet Mills and John Glowa
Republican Party: Paul LePage
Maine Green Independent Party: Michael Barden
Libertarian Party: no announced candidates yet and
Michael Heath, and Tom Saviello are unaffiliated individuals who have announced they are running independent campaigns.
Candidates are currently gathering signatures from voters. Party Candidates must collect at least 2,000 validated signatures from members of their respective Parties by March 15, 2022. Non-Party Candidates must submit at least 4,000 validated signatures by June 1, 2022 and must remain unenrolled from March 1st until the general election in order to remain qualified as an unenrolled candidate.
At this point it appears highly likely there will be at least three candidates on the November Ballot for Governor, and it is possible there will be four candidates. The winner is likely to be decided by a plurality of the voters.
Remembering Governor Paul LePage, what advice do I give voters? First carefully consider whether it is advisable to sign Candidate’s Petitions. If a candidate doesn’t get enough signatures, they cannot be on the ballot. While one should vote for one’s preference in any Primary election, I believe the most important consideration in November’s General Election will be: do you want to see Paul LePage back in Blaine House in January of 2023? If not, you need to do everything you can to ensure that one of his opponents has the plurality. Paul’s supporters are already in full swing to win the race!