A new bill has worked its way into the Maine legislature. Presented and co-sponsored by Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, it seeks to “require candidates to be listed as unenrolled if not registered with a recognized party.”
That’s right, it seems that for these legislators, “independent” is now too strong of a word for those who decide to run with no party affiliation.
But it’s not only independents who would be affected by this law. The only recognized parties in the state of Maine are Republican, Democratic, and Green Independent. That means, for instance, that a Libertarian candidate would also have an "unenrolled" designation on the ballot.
Some opponents have referred to this bill as the “Party Protection Plan,” since it is likely to give recognized party candidates an advantage at the polls over the unimpressive and uninformative designation "unenrolled."
It's important to note that Maine has a considerably high independent voter population (37% of the total electorate), state voters elected one of the only two independent U.S. senators in Congress, and Maine is one of the only states in the country that currently has two independent state legislators.
It certainly seems like some in Maine's government have a strategy to hold on to power, which they feel is being taken away from them by those pesky voters.
And it doesn't stop there.
Many state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are going after the citizens' initiative process; particularly, after state voters approved Ranked Choice Voting to reform the state’s election process. Ranked choice voting was approved with more than 400,000 votes, the second-highest ‘Yes’ vote in the state’s initiative history.
Governor Paul LePage talked about the initiative process during his State of the State. He was very assertive, saying that direct democracy is not good for the people of Maine, in part, because he believes it is making the legislators less relevant.
Several bills were introduced in the legislature – right after Ranked Choice Voting passed – going after the initiative process, which means future efforts at voter-approved reform in Maine are in jeopardy.
On ranked choice specifically, Maine’s Senate voted (with a 24-10 vote) in favor of asking for an advisory opinion from Maine’s Supreme Court, which is likely to delay or even kill its implementation all together.
Forcing independents to run as ‘unenrolled,’ delaying ranked choice voting, and attacking citizens’ initiatives -- is the partisan political establishment trying to cripple Maine’s independent and reformative streak?