December 16, 2018

Democracy in Action

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TwoWolvesLambIt is commonly stated that democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for lunch. I suppose a democratic form of voting must be accomplished by having an exact representation of all registered voters. In fact, all registered, and legal, voters should participate in voting. So, should we then jump at the notion tossed out by President Obama a few days ago suggesting that all those eligible to vote should be forced to vote? I hope not. Maybe some of the processes leading up to a vote should be looked at.

Consider, if you will, the false paradigms that everyone engages in – Left vs. Right, Republic vs. Democrat, Liberal vs. Conservative, Blue vs. Red, Urban vs. Rural, North vs. South, East vs. West, etc. Convinced that there is a difference, we are continuously distracted from the realities around us.

Many years ago, when I began investing my time and money into Online projects, one of the first things I learned was that for every rule that was devised supposedly to make the Internet experience better and more fair for everyone, thousands of people went to work to beat the system. Is this not true for everything, everywhere? Where’s the honesty anymore?

I also remember many, many years ago when I coached in a town little league baseball program, each Spring all the coaches within the county league would meet to discuss the upcoming season. This was also a time to discuss any possible rule changes. I learned right away that the process was wrong. Each rule change proposal that was made was done so for the clear advantage to deal with one particular coach’s team circumstances and not for the betterment of the league. Eventually, I became commissioner of that league and one of the first changes I sought was that no rule changes would go into effect immediately. It would have to take at least two seasons. There was a process to deal with actual emergencies. Is this same process at play in many, if not all, of our everyday lives? Do we react in a knee-jerk way to find a cure for the short term with little thought for the future?

The state of Maine has in the past few decades been called “The Two Maines.” This title came as the result of the more densely populated, “liberal” coastal region of the state and the inland and northern rural portions of the state thought to be “conservative.” Maine is not unique in this geographic and social and economic dynamic.

Today, I was reading an article found on HotAir about this very topic. It wasn’t Maine specific, but it did deal with the distinct problems that exist between densely populated city regions and those people who live there, and their ideals, opposed to those living in rural areas. The article is an interesting read as well as the comments left after the article. Please visit the site.

If there exists a distinct and unfair advantage to this demographic, that makes it easier for one group to force their ideology onto others, then what if anything, can be done about it? Surely this is the way of our society today.

The Maine Legislature will be considering a bill proposal that might help with this problem if a problem does exist. I don’t have access to voting data and statistics to know the demographics of who votes in Maine and from what region, county or town of each ballot cast. Therefore, I can only present what is being said and the bill that is being proposed.

A bad democracy (there are no real good democracies) becomes two wolves and a sheep discussing what’s for lunch when only two wolves and one sheep show up to vote. What happened to all the wolves and all the sheep? The truth is not even a majority of registered and legal voters participate in most elections. Therefore the system is flawed, but that is the reality that must be dealt with.

What happens then when certain voters, often with similar interests, congregate in densely populated cities? Can those voters have a distinct and stronger influence in political, economic and social issues? Some think so.

In Maine, which is not unlike other states, an example of this appears when the legal process is undertaken to get a citizen’s referendum onto a ballot. One of the requirements for that would be for petitioners to gather legal signatures of at least 10% (a number not actual names) of the number of those who voted in the last election. There are no stipulations on where those signatures can be gathered across the state.

Maine has been inundated over the past decade with ballot initiatives from the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights/environmental groups in attempts to change the way of life or many Maine people. They want to put an end to hunting, trapping and fishing, among other lifestyles. This is a classic example of two wolves and a sheep discussing lunch.

Because of the expenses, time, effort and energy that it takes to fight against such efforts, there are many bill proposals and a lot of discussion of what can be done to stop this attack. In 2004, the Humane Society of the United States lost a referendum vote to end trapping and hounding of bears. This past Fall, another referendum ended the same way. Many want this to be made more difficult or to stop altogether.

There are constitutional amendments being considered. Some are to exempt wildlife management from referendum votes. Others are to guarantee that Maine’s residents have a right to hunt, trap and fish.

LD1228 attempts to change the “fairness” of the signature gathering process.

Sec. 1. 21-A MRSA §902-B is enacted to read:
3 §902-B. Signatures on petitions for direct initiative of legislation from congressional
4 districts
5 The required number of signatures on petitions for the direct initiative of legislation
6 specified in the Constitution of Maine, Article IV, Part Third, Section 18 must include a
7 number of signatures of voters registered to vote in each congressional district that is
8 equal to 10% of the total vote for Governor cast in that congressional district in the last
9 gubernatorial election preceding the filing of the direct initiative.
10 SUMMARY
11 This bill provides that the required number of signatures on petitions for the direct
12 initiative of legislation must include a number of signatures of voters registered to vote in
13 each congressional district that is equal to 10% of the total vote for Governor cast in that
14 congressional district in the last gubernatorial election preceding the filing of the direct
15 initiative.

Maine has two Congressional Districts. Supposedly (I haven’t counted) each district comprises the same number of people. In the last bear referendum vote, according to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, 73% of the signatures gathered to get the referendum on the ballot, came from the First District, which is mostly comprised of the southern coastal regions where it is more densely populated and with distinct socio-economic differences than the Second District.

LD1228 proposes to mandate that at least 5% of signatures come from each district that would make up the 10%.

Does this help to level the playing field? Is this a false cure for a false paradigm? Some argue that for government to be better and more in the hands of the people, a big government needs to be whittled down to small pieces, putting more of it in the hands of the people where they reside. If this is true, would this proposal do anything worthwhile in that regard?

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