Editor’s note: This is an installment in an occasional series of columns on business and politics by writers who are not affiliated with a major party.

Thoughtful debate is needed now to rescue civic democracy from the grasp of organized partisanship.

James Madison and other founders were concerned that factions could overrule the best intentions of civic virtue. From the earliest days of our nation, partisan seekers of power have schemed to gain control of legislative bodies.

Maine has long prided itself on its independent point of view. The candidates know it, that’s why party affiliations have generally disappeared from campaign signage.

It’s time we have an election reform suited to our independent tradition. Direct open primaries with all candidates facing the voters would invigorate the independent democratic process.

Those who call for a two-party system argue that the party endorsements alert voters to the candidates they should support. This logic insults the independent critical thinking ability of voters. Better democratic processes would encourage voters to become involved in elective decision-making at the earliest possible stage. Why state government runs closed primaries for private factions to choose candidates is unclear.

In 2014, Maine’s secretary of state distributed tens of thousands of Green Independent Party ballots all over the state with no candidate names listed on them. The large plurality of self-identified independent voters are forced to enroll in a party to participate, and then they are limited to choosing only from one faction’s slate.

Recently political parties have worked to eliminate contests within the party before the primary. In both Democratic and Republican parties in 2014 prospective candidates were discouraged by party organizers from contesting for party nomination.

Both then-U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins had outspoken opponents within their parties who disappeared before the primaries.

Ranked choice voting has been put forward as the solution to this problem, but it would do nothing to improve the current disastrous primary election system. Ranked choice voting proponents suggest the concept of ensuring a majority winner after all the second-, third- and fourth-choice computing is done will make the campaigns more civil.

Recent history shows that mudslinging attack ads will continue until voters respond by wholesale rejection of those tactics. Anonymous attack ads will continue to distort the elective process until voters make it clear that they will punish that tactic and demand candidates to clearly state what policies they will pursue if chosen for office in the public’s interest.

A bill sponsored by State Rep. Mattea Daughtry, D-Brunswick, offers Mainers the best possibility of real reform. L.D. 720 would require that independents and party candidates alike would appear on the same primary ballot. They would all have the same amount of time to get their messages out and enlist support. The top two candidates regardless of party would face off in the general election. It is a system that is currently being used successfully in several states.

This electoral system also avoids the technical and logistic issues of the ranked choice voting procedure. Many voters have expressed skepticism about the ranking process; it represents a deviation from the concept of choosing the best candidate. It seems to invite strategic manipulation of second or third choices that might have unintended consequences. Personal attributes like gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity might interfere with the ranking based on effective ability to act on policy.

L.D. 720 has the added democratic benefit of motivating independent voters to get involved much earlier in the process. Instead of waiting out the closed primary process and then launching an independent campaign, independent campaigns will have to organize and articulate a message to the voters for the primary campaign. It is a simple single-vote process and focuses attention on the final election result. It should increase independent voter involvement and lead to better voter education.

Of course, partisan factions in the current legislature preferring the status quo will be reluctant to make such a reform. The last legislative session defeated the ranked choice voting idea when Sen. Dick Woodbury, an independent, sponsored it. Open primaries are a necessary process for the improvement of democratic participation in elections.

The League of Women Voters and other civic-minded organizations should endorse the passage of L.D. 720. If this simple legislative solution fails, we will lead a citizens’ initiative petition to place it on the ballot in 2016.

Many other reforms are needed to reduce partisan control of government, but L.D. 720 is a good first step.