Commentary

Questioning the Citizenship Behind Citizen Initiatives

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I have lived in Maine for sixteen years. When I first moved here, I learned of the referendum process, also called Citizen Initiatives, and have used the process to try and shape a more prosperous Maine through grassroots efforts.

After observing the last few election cycles, I am beginning to think that perhaps the referendum process has become a free-for-all with many well-healed activists from out of state trying to infringe on the Maine people, who at times can be generous to a fault and even sometimes misled by the creative advertising and deep pockets of those from away.

These activists, or well-organized minorities who would impose their will on everyone, have obliterated the meaning of freedom. If we consider the original rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence and defended by the Constitution, it should be clear there is a massive difference between those rights — life, liberty and property — and the plethora of entitlement programs that are being confused for today.

Some examples would be the right to employment, a minimum wage, a certain quality of housing, freedom from economic insecurity and numerous other programs that have been lobbied for by special interest groups. When those groups can’t get their harmful proposals passed in the legislature, they take to the streets to override the legislative process and try to get you to vote for something that the legislature would not.

This means that you are now charged with reading all of the information on each issue and determining if this new law will improve Maine, or if it will be detrimental. Do you read all of the information before you vote? I know I do, and hope you will as well.

This year there are five referendum questions on the November ballot and it is your responsibility to understand them before you vote.

Maine Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative
Minimum Wage Increase Initiative
Legalize Marijuana Initiative
Background Checks for Gun Sales Initiative
Establish The Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Initiative

As the collective electorate, it is our civic duty to read the proposals and vote in an informed manner. When you go to the polls, I ask you think about the following definitions and ask yourself if these initiatives are antithetical to our rights and ultimately our freedom. And of course, always follow the money.

Rights are that which can be exercised by everyone at the same time without permission and without placing obligations on or violating the rights of another person or persons. Freedom is a moral principle that differentiates voluntary action from coercion. It is not a means to a higher political end, it is the highest political end attainable.

The referendum process in Maine has unfortunately evolved into a system of legalized plunder. Small minorities of well organized citizens assisted by big money activists from away attempt to pass laws that take money from one person and give it to another of whom it does not belong. The rule of law is overridden by the rule of consensus.

In other words, because a perceived majority votes for something, it is alright to make everyone pay for it. Is it really a majority when one considers that in the last election cycle, with a population of 1.33 million, only about 600 thousand Mainers voted?

I have come to the startling conclusion that out-of-state activists do not really care about Maine, or its people as a whole. They only care about getting their agendas passed in Maine. With its small populace concentrated in a few very populated liberal cities, Maine is a cheap date that they can then use as a feather in their cap to further their own agendas.

I sincerely hope that our fate is not like that of the eagle in Libyan folklore, who, when struck by an arrow, said as he viewed the fashion of the shaft, “It is not by the hand of others but by our own feathers we are smitten.”

About Beth O'Connor

Representative O'Connor represents House District 5 including the towns of Berwick and North Berwick (part). She can be reached at (207) 289-9047.

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