Commentary

It’s Not Enough to Show Up to Vote

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Being an engaged citizen is more important today than ever.

As the general election in November approaches, we as Americans have choices to make. This presidential race will mark a pivotal point in our nation’s history and it is up to the people to vote for a leader who will protect our country and our people.

I believe voting is a responsibility each one of us shares. I am not one to tell you how to vote, but it is important that voters know what they are voting for.

Mainers tend to turnout in large numbers to the polls during presidential election years. In 2012, more than 60 percent voted, which was higher than the national average.

In Maine, this year we have significant issues on the ballot. There are five questions Mainers have to consider. My staff and I have been researching each of the questions and we are learning about how these issues will affect Maine. Now until November, I will do my best to provide you with facts so you may make informed decisions.

But not all information is equal. Recently, a concerned citizen alerted me regarding information distributed by the St. Michael Parish. To my surprise, the parish voluntarily shared information from the group Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership. The group is advocating for the passage of one of the questions on the ballot, which mandates universal background checks. This group is clearly advocating for a “Yes” vote and has targeted churchgoers.

Why a church would allow electioneering propaganda to infiltrate its parish is questionable and, unfortunately, misinformation is spreading. Because this parish has chosen to take sides, I feel it necessary to provide more clarity of the facts so voters may make an informed decision in November.

First, this question to voters could prove to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of background checks, but has never had occasion to rule on a blanket, one-size-fits-all background check requirement that is included by the proposed initiative.

Second, if you want to sell or loan firearms to a friend and this passes, you want to understand exactly what this means or you unknowingly could be subject to criminal sanctions.

The initiative would make it illegal to simply sell or loan firearms to a friend without first having a background check performed on the friend.  Further, the exception for hunting only applies if the friend takes possession while in the act of hunting. Under the terms of the initiative, a friend cannot loan you a gun without first performing a background check unless the friend accompanies you during every minute of the hunt or unless the friend takes possession while in the act of hunting.

Simply put, this is confusing and a convoluted question that will create unintended consequences for many Mainers.

With your vote, there is great responsibility in understanding what it represents. From now until November people and groups will lobby from the left and the right for your vote.

In an effort to better inform Mainers so you can make up your own mind, I am putting information about this question and others on the Governor’s website. I encourage you to take time to understand all the questions and what a yes or a no vote will mean. You can find the information at www.Maine.gov/governor.

About Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage (R) has served as the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. Prior to his time as governor, LePage served as the general manager of Marden's and as the mayor of Waterville.

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