Political parties build platforms and candidates ignore them. This takes place every election cycle, and voters have been trained to believe that platforms don’t matter.

Some elections it’s easier than others, like the 2010 Maine Republican platform that ranted on more about “one-world government” and “Austrian economics” than it did about health care and energy costs.

Even Paul LePage, the favorite candidate of the Knox County Republicans who had taken over the platform process that year, did not make the platform his campaign road map.

But when candidates get to office, parties really do matter and it makes sense to pay attention to the ideas that tie these groups together. The party platform is one of the few documents of the organization’s members’ core beliefs and should not be dismissed too quickly.

The draft national Republican platform that will go before delegates for approval this week includes some hard-line positions that Maine voters should take time to understand. If candidates are pledging to buck party discipline after Election Day, they should be ready to say so now.

Republican delegates this year will be asked to endorse a new concept — declaring abortion to be detrimental to a “woman’s health and well-being.”

This idea sounds like a small extension to the long-held party position that calls for recogntion of constitutional rights for unborn children. But the new language has many policy repercussions when it comes to federal regulation of health insurance plans, especially the provisions that call for them to include family planning services. If a procedure is now considered bad for a woman’s health, it could be excluded from mandated coverage.

This is not as inflammatory as the outrageous statements of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri that were widely rebutted by his fellow Republicans, including Senate candidate Charlie Summers, who called on Akin to resign his seat, but it does add a new front to Republican attempts to roll back women’s health protections.

If parties matter, then so do platforms. Even Sen. Olympia Snowe, a pro-abortion rights Republican who is famous for taking an independent path, votes with her party more than two-thirds of the time.

Maine voters should pay close attention to both parties’ conventions this year and hold candidates accountable for the positions that they choose to define themselves as a group.