Big Talk host Steven Emmons speaks with 2 steering committee members of Maine's League of Young Voters. Ashley Phaneuf and Patrick Banks talk about what issues the League is supporting, the upcoming gay marriage vote, and how people can get involved and help make changes in politics in Maine.
The League of Young Voters has succeeded in placing a referendum on the ballot on whether to allow legal, non-citizen immigrants to vote in Portland's municipal elections.
This is a big accomplishment for The League, and the time and effort that went into gathering more than 4,500 verified signatures is impressive.
For the fall campaign, the main factors they'll be working against are general anti-immigrant sentiment, confusion over documented vs. undocumented immigrants (the law would only apply to those in the country legally) and some misconception about how our immigration system works.
Many will ask "Why don't they just become citizens if they want to vote?" But the way our immigration system is structured, that's not nearly as easy as it sounds.
Here's a flowchart from Reason Magazine that lays things out pretty well (click to enlarge):
Even if you're the spouse of a U.S. citizen and are living in this country, your best case scenario for gaining citizenship is a wait of six or seven years.
If you came to this country because you're a highly-educated specialist and have a U.S. employer willing to pay up to $10,000 in legal and other fees to gain entry for you (and everything else goes right), your time to immigrate and gain citizenship will be 11 to 16 years.
So, even if these people are taking the quickest routes possible towards citizenship, for most of these extended periods they are living in, paying taxes to, and sending their kids to school in municipalities where they don't have a voice in their government.
A final misconception is that this referendum would give new immigrants a vote in state or national elections. It won't. If the law passes, non-citizens aren't going to be voting on issues of war and peace, they'll be involved in local zoning regulations and school board elections, areas that are often cited as not garnering enough civic participation.
It will be interesting to see what kinds of messages come out of this campaign. The level of discourse will tell us a lot about the state of immigrant and racial politics in the city of Portland and the state of Maine.
Portland City Council candidate Tina Smith responds by email about the League of Young Voters endorsement:
I am very disappointed with The League's endorsements but I am honestly not surprised. They have been making a trend out of getting away from their original "non-partisan" and "making young people players in the political process" mission for quite some time now. This had a great deal to do with why I'm no longer working there.
Sounds like there's some history there.
Chris Busby at The Bollard has some advice for candidates regarding political signs, including "If you're running for the school board, don't misspell common words on your campaign signs."
School Board candidate Anna Trevorrow made that mistake when she tried to rhyme her last name with "tommorrow" on her campaign signs, which are meant to look like a yellow school bus.
Busby also faults at-large city council candidate Tina Smith for placing a sign inside a public art installation.
Smith may have more to worry about than angry artists, however. The League of Young Voters, a Portland-based civic group, has released their endorsements and Smith isn't on the list. The League instead endorsed her opponent, incumbent mayor Ed Suslovic, explaining that Smith's "lack of experience with strategic planning, policy, and budgets would not make her an effective advocate on the Council."
This wouldn't be a big deal, except that Smith has been an organizer with the League for the past four years and has based her entire campaign on that work.
The League of Young Voters is sponsoring a candidates forum in Portland for three house races and the at-large city council race. The event will be held at the Community Television Network studios on September 16th and questions can be submitted using an online form.
Here's how the Portland Phoenix describes the participating candidates:
City Council At-Large
• Incumbent and current mayor Ed Suslovic, a Democrat.
• Green Independent Tina Smith, a former League organizer.
• Dory Waxman, former school committee member, Democratic City Committee chair, and community organizer.
House District 115 (Back Cove)
• Donna Bendicksen, a Republican who was involved in the effort to repeal Real ID.
• Stephen Lovejoy, a Democrat who teaches business at the University of Maine at Augusta.
• Michael Hiltz, a Green Independent and a registered nurse at Brighton Medical Center.
House District 119 (Parkside)
• Incumbent Democrat and longtime local political fixture Herb Adams.
• Republican Ryan Hendrickson.
• Green Independent Dan Jenkins, a recent college grad who’s getting his masters in public policy from the Muskie School.
House District 120 (Munjoy Hill and the Old Port)
• Democrat and Opportunity Maine founding board member Diane Russell.
• Green Independent and environmentalist Sandy Amborn.
• Republican Peter Doyle, who was outspoken about his opposition to providing birth control to King Middle School students.
The opponents of the beverage tax to fund health care initiatives have submitted more than 90,000 signatures to the secretary of state, far surpassing the 55,087 required. This virtually guarantees that the veto will be an option on the ballot in November. Here's the report from WMTW:
The coalition of beverage distributors and business interests spent more than $400,000 and used some rather shady tactics to get their signatures, as Craig Saddlemire from the surprisingly entertaining Maine Video Activists Network explains:
For more info: Health Coverage for Maine