I am extremely disappointed with the Maine Legislature’s vote to continue blocking independent voters from participating in primary elections. While polls suggest 80% of Maine voters are in favor of allowing independents to vote in taxpayer-funded primaries, both parties continue to show their disdain for popular opinion.

Participation is key for a healthy democracy. By U.S. standards, Maine has high voter turnout and we should be proud of that. But when 35% of people don’t have a say in which candidates that will be appearing on their ballot simply because they don’t wish to affiliate with a party, that makes people less enthusiastic to get involved in the political process.

I am of the opinion that the “populism” that gets discussed so much in negative terms is a natural response to people feeling alienated from the democratic process. When popular frustration cannot find an outlet or expression through democratic means, it finds an expression through undemocratic means. One need not look further than the policies of so many of our current “populist” leaders to see that they’re inclined towards a less democratic form of government, where fewer people have a say.

Allowing unenrolled voters to participate in primary elections will ensure that both major parties more adequately reflect the public at large, and will ensure that when there is widespread public frustration with government, that frustration gets heard and addressed. That is why I support open primaries in Maine. I hope you join me.

Cynthia Soma-Hernandez
North Anson

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