Open Maine’s primaries

Democracy is under attack by the two major parties. Among independent voters (“unenrolled”), Democrats and Republicans, independents represent the largest group in Maine. And they are not allowed to vote in the primaries when it really matters. Far too many elections are decided in the primaries rather than in the general election, and 35 percent of Maine voters are automatically excluded from the process. If you are conservative but live in a blue area, voting is often a useless practice, and vice versa.

It is absurd that in the oldest democracy in the world, there are so many artificial roadblocks to participating in the process.

We constantly talk about the polarization of the two parties, but this closed primary system creates a dynamic that supports this polarization. Leaders can ignore or be antagonistic to the majority of the people they are supposed to represent. This creates leaders who are unaccountable to the people. The only people in control are the donors who write large checks to get their candidate elected.

Here in Maine, I believe we still have a robust democratic system, in large part thanks to our many activists who work to hold power to account. Maine people are just like people elsewhere; we are interested in higher wages, lower cost of living, health care and many other issues which will benefit our lives in material ways. These issues are overwhelmingly supported among independents, Democrats and Republicans as well, but they never get the attention they deserve because our leaders are not accountable to us.

Making Maine an open primary state is one big step towards fixing this issue.

Storme St. Valle

Don’t penalize part-time work

People with serious mental health issues who receive Social Security Disability (SSD) and are only capable of working part-time are penalized. A cap is set for them that prevents them from earning even one cent over that amount. If they do, their benefits are taken away. This leaves them in fear of working, and even if they do work and stay under the cap, they live below the poverty level.

Many of these people, including myself, have repeatedly tried to go off SSD only to find ourselves failing to do so. Over the years, I’ve tried to work full time only to break down mentally and/or physically. Severe mental illness is a legitimate disability and not a sign of weakness or laziness. Part-time work allows us to be productive and contribute to society. By lifting the cap, it has the potential to keep us out of poverty as well as allow us to use our skills and gifts in order to give back.

Victoria Molta

Elder abuse prevention

It is a well-known fact that Maine is an old state — significantly more of our population is elderly than most other states. It is estimated that about 12,000 seniors are abused each year in our state, and only about one out of every 14 elder abuse cases are reported. In about 90 percent of cases, the abuser is a family member or caregiver. As a result, our elderly fear reporting problems as it could result in a loss of the little support they have.

This is the harsh reality of many living in our community, and I feel strongly that we need to stand by our elderly community and speak out when we fear they are experiencing abuse or neglect. In April, I presented a bill, LD 1249, An Act to Prohibit Infringing on the Rights of Association of Dependent Adults, to the committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. The bill, which has passed both the House and Senate and is now awaiting the governor’s signature, would prohibit the abuse and isolation of elder persons and dependent adults. It is a step, but we all need to work to prevent abuse and protect our seniors.

To learn more about how to recognize red flags, the types of abuse and how to get help, visit the Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention website.

Rep. Archie Verow