The DI Report: ON THE GROUND IN MAINE: Organizing for Accountable Elections in the Pine Tree State

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

 “When we band together for common goals like we have with other Democracy Initiative organizations, America becomes an even better place for middle class Americans.” –Serina DeWolfe, CWA Local 1400

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On November 3rdcitizens across the state of Maine will head to the polls and vote on Question 1 to restore and re-establish accountable elections to counteract the role of big money in state races, while putting Mainers in control of their elections and giving them an equal voice in the political process.

Accountable or clean elections, approved overwhelmingly by Maine voters in 1996, established the first-ever public funding system in the United States for candidates running for a state office in Maine. Elections were decided by the voters, not by wealthy special interests. However, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011 eliminated the matching fund component, dramatically weakening Maine’s Clean Election Law and making it easier for wealthy special interests to influence the outcome of campaigns. The original purpose of the Maine Clean Election Act – fairness, accountability and transparency in elections, along with Mainers’ free speech – was compromised.   

The Democracy Initiative recognized the campaign to restore Maine’s clean elections as crucial and exemplary of a strong and healthy democracy. Working with the Yes on 1 Campaign we recruited endorsing organizations to lend their resources to the effort. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) was one of the organizations that answered the call, committing two organizers to the campaign to help with canvassing, organizing, and other activities throughout the state.

The Democracy Initiative recently had the opportunity to speak with one of those organizers,  Serina DeWolfe of CWA Local 1400 and the District Vice President in Maine about her organizing efforts on the ground. Below are some of Serina’s reflections on the campaign in its final weeks and its importance to the broader democracy movement.

Democracy Initiative (DI): Why are accountable elections important to the Communications Workers of America?

Serina DeWolfe (SD): The Communications Workers of America prides itself on fighting for the middle class. Accountable elections would bring true democracy back to the election process as mainstream candidates have become so entrenched with lobbyists and special interest groups. They have lost sight of the issues that are important to not only middle class Americans but all Americans. We need to take back our voice in the American political process and vote on issues and not be misled by wealthy special interests.

DI: Why do accountable elections matter to our democracy?

SD: I would pose this question: How do you have a true democracy without accountable elections? Elections won by the most affluent candidates supported by the richest special interest groups are not examples of the democracy that the United States was founded on. There is no true “one person, one vote” when elections are bought by lobbyist groups.

DI: How does it help your organization to work with other Democracy Initiative organizations on issues like accountable elections in Maine?

SD: As CWA likes to say, “When we fight, we win!” We pride ourselves on advocating and representing the issues and struggles faced by the middle class in America and making elections about the issues that the middle class face day-to-day : income inequality, minimum wage, and the high cost of healthcare to name a few. When we band together for common goals like we have with other Democracy Initiative organizations, America becomes an even better place for middle class Americans.

DI: Why do you think accountable elections matter in Maine? In other states?

SD: There is truth to the old slogan “as Maine goes, so goes the nation.” There is a watchful eye on our small, rural state where we pride ourselves on doing what is right. I am confident that Mainers will go to the polls on November 3rd and do the right thing. This is a pivotal referendum question. If Mainers do the right thing by voting for accountable elections, I am confident other states will realize the positive impact this will have on elections throughout the United States and we, the voters, will have our voice back.

As the campaign to restore accountable elections in Maine races toward the finish line, Democracy Initiative organizations like CWA are working hard to turn out every single Mainer to make their voice heard on Election Day. Their efforts on the ground, along with additional partners like Common Cause, Every Voice, Sierra Club, Maine People’s Action, and others are critical to building a true democracy movement and building a government of, by, and for the people.



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