To the Editor:
In June, a group of roughly 50 people entered a local Bank of America branch in Brunswick in the middle of the business day. Many wore hooded sweatshirts pulled over their heads and raised their fists in defiance, reminiscent of the mobs that recently plagued the streets of London.
The group brought business at the bank to a standstill as they filled the lobby, waved signs and voiced their rage through a bullhorn. This exercise in disruption, called a “flash protest,” was produced by a group of professional malcontents known as the Maine People’s Alliance. The MPA is the leading force behind the “Yes on 1” campaign to reinstate same-day voter registration in Maine. The similarities between the street-punk hostilities at Bank of America and the MPA’s referendum effort are striking.
Most so-called “People’s Veto” efforts to overturn laws passed by the legislature are the result of a grassroots reaction to legislative overreach. The “Yes on 1” campaign this year is different.
The Maine People’s Alliance, as well as like-minded left-wing groups, began this campaign before they had an issue to run it against. In February, the Kennebec Journal reported that a group called the Maine People’s Veto Alliance held a meeting in Richmond to lay out plans for the campaign. They had no particular issue to be enraged about, but they were certain something the new leadership in state government did would give them a vehicle for their recall efforts.
Several months later, the MPA sent out emails to their membership, asking them to submit ideas for an issue to run a veto campaign against. By mid-June, the MPA had still not decided what issue to choose for their campaign. They considered a veto attempt against the legislature’s health care reform bill, but ultimately decided on the same-day voter registration issue after what they referred to as “input from thousands of MPA members, consulting on strategy with ally organizations in Maine and conducting research into policy and public opinion.”
The fact that the MPA had to conduct polling to decide which issue to run this campaign against shows that they are more concerned with disrupting the legislative process than actually restoring same-day registration.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center released polling recently that shed more light on the reality of the same-day registration issue. What they found further reinforces the fact that this referendum has no basis in actual voter concern. In fact, their research shows that Mainers strongly support the legislature’s action to repeal same-day registration, along with further measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral process.
It is becoming clear that the people of Maine and the Maine People’s Alliance share little in common.
In the case of the Brunswick demonstration, the MPA staffers assumed the roles of outraged citizens to spread the idea that Mainers were rising up in anger against Bank of America. The MPA’s contrivance couldn’t be further from reality. Like citizens all over Maine, most people in Brunswick desperately hope Bank of America does not include their local branch in the 30,000 layoffs the company announced earlier this month. Play acting an angry mob and shutting down business at the bank doesn’t seem like a helpful move when jobs are in the balance.
In the case of the “Yes on 1” campaign, MPA’s dishonesty is rampant. They are making absurd claims of “thousands of volunteers” to draw people to a cause that they themselves don’t even seem to have earnest regard for: they needed polling data and focus groups to even get interested in it. Reports abound of misleading signature-gatherers, making outrageous claims about the new law.
The MPA has openly claimed disenfranchisement of elderly voters, despite the fact that elderly voters represent only about one percent of same-day registrants. The MPA and its allies have also continued to make the false statement that same-day registration has increased voter turnout in Maine, despite clear statistical evidence that turnout has remained constant for decades. These false claims and a continued mantra of “voter suppression” show how little regard the MPA has for honest policy discussion. Fortunately, public sentiment doesn’t appear to be swayed by the MPA’s deceit.
The MPA doesn’t represent the people of Maine. They didn’t represent the people of Maine when they gathered a mob to intimidate bank tellers in Brunswick, and they don’t represent the people of Maine in this contrived referendum to keep municipalities from verifying the integrity of our elections. What they do represent is an impetuous movement of trouble-makers who seem to glory in their ability to be disruptive.
The Maine people aren’t interested in anti-corporate hooliganism, and they aren’t interested in following professional protestors into arbitrary repeal efforts. Maine has more serious issues to attend to, and the MPA would do well to consider a more serious and honest approach to the political process in the future.
State Rep. Richard M. Cebra
Cebra is the chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation, chairman of the House Ethics Committee and a member of the Joint Select Committee on Joint Rules for the 125th Legislature. He represents the Towns of Naples, Casco and Poland.