I ’m a small business owner in southern Maine and see every day how decisions made by politicians in Augusta and Washington impact my daily life and my bottom-line.

Like most Mainers, I want to know that the people we elect to represent us in Augusta and Washington are doing just that – representing us. I want a transparent system so that I can spot corruption, follow the money and hold politicians accountable when they are granting favors to big campaign donors at the expense of everyday Mainers. I want to know that when someone breaks the law in an effort to buy an election in Maine, they are held accountable and pay the price.

Clearly, I’m not alone.

Despite hyper-partisanship in Augusta, Washington and across the country today, a recent poll from the NYT/CBS shows that when it comes to getting big money out of politics and putting the voice of the people back in control of our elections, voters across the country – regardless of political party – overwhelmingly agree that it’s time for action. In fact, according to the poll, 85 percent of Americans – including more than 80 percent of both Democrats and Republicans – believe that the system for funding political campaigns needs “fundamental changes” or that “we need to completely rebuild the system.” In addition, 75 percent of Americans believe in tougher disclosure requirements for special interests looking to influence elections.

One would think that such consensus on an issue would lead to clear changes by policy makers. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. Elected leaders in Augusta and Washington are failing to take action, so now it’s up to us – the voters – to do it ourselves. Mainers have an opportunity to lead the way.

Earlier this year, more than 80,000 Mainers – Democrats, Republicans, Greens and Independents – signed a petition to place a statewide question on this November’s ballot that will limit the influence big money has on our political system by reforming our campaign finance laws, increasing disclosure requirements, and strengthening our Clean Elections so that politicians are accountable to us – not ultrawealthy campaign donors and special interests.

All it takes is a quick read of the daily paper to see why reforms like this are needed. Just recently papers and media outlets were consumed with a story about a group of wealthy venture capitalists able to carve out $16 million in tax breaks for themselves with no economic benefit to Maine by hiring a few well-connected lobbyists and making thousands in campaign contributions. This sham of a deal means a select wealthy few benefited while Maine people and small business owners across the state foot the bill.

That’s not right and it needs to stop.

By passing this referendum we can ensure that politicians are accountable to us – not wealthy campaign donors. It will increase transparency and allow us to follow the money by requiring bigmoney special interests looking to influence Maine elections to list their top three donors on all political ads.

It will increase fees and penalties for anyone that breaks our campaign finance laws because right now, they are merely considered a cost of doing business rather than a reason to follow the law.

It will strengthen Maine’s landmark Clean Elections so that candidates are no longer dependent on big contributions from ultra-wealthy donors and special interests. When politicians depend on donations from special interests and big corporations – they answer to them. They should answer to us since our government was meant to be of the people, by the people and for the people.

This is an opportunity to put control of elections in the hands of the voters and send a clear message to the rest of the country that when it comes to protecting the public interest and ensuring the integrity of our election system, everyday people are willing to step in and lead – even if our elected officials aren’t.

I hope the entire state stands together to ensure it passes.

To learn more about this referendum and get involved, visit www.accountableelections.org.

— Sharon Peralta owns Custom Computer Services in Springvale and is on the steering committee of the Maine Small Business Coalition.