Testimony: Maine Voters Deserve Open Elections, More Choice

I’m Joe Pickering Jr, representing Mainers for Open Elections, a new corporation. We support LD 78. Maine Voters should vote in any election without the label “unaffiliated voter.” We the people should own our election system. Political parties have the right of Free Association but NO right to FEE association. Taxpayers shouldn’t fund any private organization’s primaries. Public funds should only be used for open elections. Mainers deserve choices. Please support LD 78.

Governor Le Page is concerned about party gridlock. He’s in good company. The Harvard University School of Business three-year study says the same thing using far more words.

The governor claims the two-party system’s broken, and that a Constitutional Convention of the States should be held. It may be. But, there’s NO two-party system. The major parties do SYSTEMATICALLY control our election system from the closed primaries through the presidential elections.

Our state and federal political leaders could truly honor the people of Maine by helping bring about profound election reform, including ending closed primaries. We the people should demand it! Our parties’ long-term interests are best served by winning the hearts and minds of voters through merit, not political manipulation of our election system.

ALSO READ: 10 Ways Political Parties Control Your Vote

In 1948, the Freedom Train colored red, white, and blue was sent to hundreds of cities and towns across Maine and America. At 9 years old, I climbed aboard the Freedom Train containing Americans’ most treasured documents, including the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

There was one smartly dressed Marine guarding each car in the long train. They were very economical in those days! Seeing those national treasures of American liberty written out was a wonderful civic lesson. It made America SHINE in my heart. Maybe that’s why nearly 70 years later, I say please first be a member of “We the People,” and a distant second member of “We the Party.” Vote for LD 78.

Our state and federal political leaders could truly honor the people of Maine by helping bring about profound election reform, including ending closed primaries.
Joe Pickering, IVN Independent Author

Today, a hurricane of change blows across our country. Independents are the nation’s and Maine’s largest voting bloc. Nearly 50% of Millennials are independent! The FUTURE is now! Even politicians from the major parties question closed primaries.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, the Democratic Minority Leader, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2014. The headline [sic] read: “End Partisan Primaries, Save America, Adopt the Open Primary: Polarization and partisanship are a plague on American Politics.” He also included the danger of congressional redistricting (gerrymandering).

Former 16-year conservative Republican U.S. Congressman Mickey Edwards wrote a brilliant NYT best selling book called, The Parties vs the People: How to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans. He gives a “blueprint” on the fundamental structural changes needed in Congress and the entire political process for America’s well being.

One of his major points is, “take away the right of the parties to control access to the ballot.” That’s why the closed primary law is wrong for Maine. Support LD 78.

A few days ago, a federal judge ruled against the Federal Election Commission, holding that rules governing participation in the presidential debates were decidedly unfair and arbitrary. It’s the beginning of the end for party control at the national level.

Our state motto, “As Maine goes, so goes the Nation” is true in most respects. Maine was first in the nation with the landmark Clean Election Law, and landmark Rank Choice Voting law. LD 78 is another important step in unfettered voter freedom. Maine’s closed primary law snubs the future. Please stop Maine from fleeing into the past. Move Maine into the future!

This law requiring independents to join a party is more restrictive than it appears. The text of section 144 — referenced in LD 78 — has independents not only jumping through the hoop to join a party but then jumping through another hoop to leave party affiliation. The voter can’t unenroll for 3 months after enrolling, and has to complete paperwork to turn into the registrar to leave the party.

Nearly half (49%) of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are independent voters. Haven’t they earned the right to vote in any election without joining a party? As a veteran, I believe they should and so should all. Our voting rights should be based on American citizenship and Maine residency, NOT party affiliation!

Since late 1978, I’ve testified and observed the strong and enormous work ethic of hundreds of legislators doing right for the people of Maine. Unfortunately, sometimes you make tragic decisions with far reaching implications such as the closed primary law. It will cause harm to Maine voters and our political parties, which I value as a registered Republican. Save Maine and America.

Please remember what Benjamin Franklin said to a Mrs. Powell and a group of citizens as he walked out of what would become Constitution Hall. She said, “Well Dr. Franklin, what kind of a government have you given us, A Republic or a Monarchy ?” He warned her: “A REPUBLIC — IF YOU CAN KEEP IT!”

He didn’t say it to the military. He didn’t say it to Washington D.C. or to political parties as they didn’t exist. Benjamin Franklin said it to a woman … a member of WE THE PEOPLE, who are the ultimate defenders of our liberty.

Too often WE forget while locked on cell phones our solemn responsibility to defend our Constitution and insure our civil liberties. Please, when you vote, may Benjamin Franklin’s words echo down through the centuries and into your minds and hearts.

Thank you.

Joe Pickering Jr.
President Mainers for Open Elections

Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm / shutterstock.com