I was excited about the opportunity at last week’s public hearing in Portland to speak to the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine about what voting means to me and how important it is to make sure that every citizen has the opportunity to exercise his or her right to vote.

I have voted in every election in Maine since I turned 18. For eight years, I’ve worked to engage voters young and old in the most fundamental form of patriotism: voting. I’ve registered young voters and transported older voters to the polls. I vote because it is the purest essence of our democracy.

We have a shared responsibility to make voting part of a larger culture of civic engagement and that starts with engaging younger, first-time voters. Whether they are from Maine or from away — whether they will stay in Maine or move — we have an obligation to encourage students and other young people to vote and to take an interest in civic life while they are in our state.

That’s why I was dismayed when, after signing in and waiting for my turn to be heard, I never got the chance to speak.

It was a full room and I recognize that the commission had a lot to juggle, but with something as important as participation in our electoral system, I expected that at a public hearing, everyone who wanted to speak would be accommodated.

As subsequent hearings take place across the state in other Maine towns, I hope the commission works to ensure that the hearing process is clear and that every Mainer wanting to speak gets that opportunity. After all, isn’t that what this process is all about — making sure Maine voters are heard?

Gabrielle Berube Pierce

Portland

I am writing to protest the way the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine held its hearing in Portland on Aug. 30. The commission:

Picked and chose who from the public could speak, ignoring the order in which people signed up.

Put all election officials and workers first, although they will have a special hearing.

Permitted some organizations that testified in Augusta to testify again — but not others. Curiously, the commission disallowed the Maine Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters and the Maine People’s Alliance.

I was there before 5:30 p.m. and stayed to the end, just before 8 p.m. Some “chosen” people who signed up after me got to speak, but I didn’t. More than a third of hearing time was taken up by legislators, who should have had separate time set aside.

With all those who were asked to testify first, members of the general public got barely 40 minutes to speak. It seems to me that does not fulfill the commission’s charge to gather public comment.

I should also report that it was clear from some of their exchanges with speakers that the commission is already working on some form of voter ID proposal.

Attorney Larry Wiley, a member of the commission, referred to a list of all the “acceptable forms of identification” that appear in various laws enacted by other states, and he offered a printed copy of this research to the spokesperson for one organization for study.

That’s research on voter ID laws that was performed on behalf of — not submitted to — the commission. So much for the pretense of a study.

All I can say is we’d better elect a Democratic Legislature in November.

Dave Garrity

Portland

State must screen elderly to prevent road fatalities

After reading in the Aug. 27 edition of the motorcycle accident in New Hampshire where an elderly driver crashed into a group of motorcyclists, killing two people and injuring five, I feel compelled to write (“Driver can’t explain deadly N.H. collision”).  

On May 10, an 84-year-old took a left turn in front of me, claiming I was not noticed on my motorcycle. I was coming in the opposite direction, just a block from my home.

The accident sent me to the hospital for a week with a major concussion, two subdural hematomas, a badly crushed right arm and many bruises. After another week in a nursing home rehab and a number of weeks in physical therapy, I can now function.  

I remember vividly when my father-in-law lost his privileges to drive and how it affected him.

That being said, the state needs to come up with some sort of program to screen our elderly to somehow prevent these unfortunate accidents from happening. May I suggest a computer test that I took to measure reaction time, which I believe was developed by the AAA?

There have been too many fatal accidents this year involving our elderly.

Albert Doyon

Westbrook

Sandusky case should be wake-up call on child safety

As the summer draws to a close, I reflect on the major news stories from this summer, and the Penn State case still resonates in the present.

On June 22, Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was found guilty on 45 of the 48 charges of sexual abuse of young boys. Though he has not been sentenced yet, I expect and hope he will spend many, many years in prison.

Jerry Sandusky violated our American values of honor, integrity and hope. Penn State, too, as an institution, violated these values by failing to report sexual abuse allegations to authorities.

As a violence prevention educator for Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, I believe this national tragedy has re-affirmed the need for sexual violence prevention programs like ours.

Our elementary school program, for example, offers personal body safety rules for students to learn how to identify instincts, healthy touch and how to report inappropriate touch to safe adults. We also work with schools to evaluate their policies around sexual violence and bullying, ensuring that victims are put first.

The Sandusky case is a wake-up call to every organization that works with children and every parent who has a connection to these organizations.

I hope parents will educate themselves about child sexual abuse and use appropriate prevention tools and safety rules with their children at home. I also ask that parents talk to their child’s school and demand that they have effective sexual violence prevention programs and protocols in place for the coming school year.

I hope all of us will learn from Penn State, ask questions, educate ourselves and our children and have a plan in place before any more children are harmed.

Amy Raina

education program manager, Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine

Portland