Maine politicians are circling their wagons around so-called voter apathy and attempting to remedy the problem. At first glance, both the cause and the timing are strange. Just last month, Maine made headlines, having topped national charts with voter turnout at 59.3 percent for the 2014 midterm.

But if you dig a bit deeper, you will find reason for concern here, too. Even with Maine’s stellar reputation for turnout, our participation during the primary dips dramatically even compared to other states, coming in at 10.1 percent in 2014 – second-to-last nationally.

To address concerns over voter participation, an idea that’s gotten a lot of attention here is ranked-choice voting. A ballot initiative to allow this system in Maine is being advanced by several of Maine’s moderate luminaries, including former independent Sen. Dick Woodbury of Yarmouth and Democratic Rep. Diane Russell of Portland.

They have modeled it on the systems currently in place for Arkansas and South Carolina and tout it as an effort to “elect a candidate with broad appeal.” And, true, the model does allow voters to rank candidates by preference. Each is eliminated until at least one has earned at least 50 percent of the vote.

But let’s not confuse broad appeal with a dynamic policy vision. In ranked-choice models, the path to victory is for candidates to moderate toward the center and avoid making too many or too strong a political stance until after the election. Let’s not turn our Maine system into a “last man standing” popularity contest. We owe it to ourselves to talk about the real issues (Lord knows there are plenty) and elect those who will be effective, not just politically correct.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, want to draw more unenrolled voters to the polls. Both have introduced their own bills this session (L.D. 744 and L.D. 720, respectively), which would allow voters who aren’t enrolled in a party to participate in primary elections. Both proposals are similar to many before them, all of which have been defeated. These two measures will likely see the same fate – and for good reason.

In many cases, even in years when Maine ranks highest in voter turnout, the only reason why people bother to vote is that a political party reminded them to do so. Case in point: The Maine Republican Party’s get-out-the-vote effort is being credited, in large part, with Gov. LePage’s victory this past November.

In fact, the state party recently won a national “Pollie” award (the so-called Oscars for politics) for the best get-out-the-vote program in 2014. In their announcement of the win, the party noted that their plan and execution was crucial to Gov. LePage’s re-election and credited it with giving him “the most votes for a candidate for Governor in Maine history.”

Similarly, the candidacy of former Rep. Mike Michaud fell short – and pundits across the state blame that failure, at least in part, to a breakdown in the state Democratic Party’s once-superior get-out-the-vote machine. It is sad to think about how few folks would have bothered to show up at the polls if parties were not driving them there (in some cases, literally).

Those who are incited by Gov. LePage’s re-election probably think they have the right to whine and complain, as they showed up on Election Day and cast their ballot for either Michaud or independent Eliot Cutler for governor. But they are wrong. As I see it, you get to complain only if you bothered to vote in the June primary. Statistically speaking, it is safe to assume they did not.

They probably did not turn out for the primary in 2010 either, which is when Gov. LePage was chosen for the Republican ticket in the first place. In that election, turnout was similarly low, and six other candidates – all but two of whom were much more universally palatable, and all of whom were much more polished – were passed over by primary voters in favor of the brash, no-nonsense LePage.

Being part of a political party requires bravery and compromise. If anything, the lessons from this past electoral cycle should motivate those unwilling to register in a political party of their liking to create their own political machine, which will help elect candidates that espouse their moderate sensibilities.

Lack of organization among moderates has made it much more difficult for them to make a lasting impact. If they want to see their candidates in office, they need to organize. In the meantime, I suggest enrolling in a political party. It’s not perfect, but it is a better alternative than being left out of the process.

Kelsey Goldsmith, co-founder and president of the public relations and public affairs firm Lovell & Paris LLC and a former staffer for former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, lives in Yarmouth with her husband and daughter. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KelseyElsey