Several bills recently were presented by Maine legislators in an attempt to stifle the referendum process, one of which would nearly double the number of signatures citizens must collect to put a measure on the state ballot. These moves clearly take power away from Mainers who, frustrated by some lawmakers’ lack of response or action, use the tool so that their voices can be heard.

If there is concern that the referendum process is being overused, perhaps we should make it easier for the people of Maine to contact their state representatives and senators.

Currently, constituents have to scroll through a large list of cities and towns on Maine’s “Find Your Representative” website, click on their name and be brought to a personal website that varies from person to person. Two phone numbers are generally given – personal and State House – without any clear guidance which should be used and under what circumstances. To get to a list of bills, constituents have to click on another link at the bottom of the page. To read a legislator’s bill, they’ll need to click through several more pages. The website is inconsistent, hard to navigate and archaic, and it severs Mainers from their elected officials. No wonder we resort to using grass-roots referendum tactics.

The communication pathway between elected official and citizen shouldn’t be blocked with unnecessary obstacles. State representatives and senators are vessels that speak for the people of Maine, and although lawmakers are elected based on campaign promises, Mainers have other concerns that need to be addressed as well.

If email and voicemail inboxes are nearly empty because it’s difficult to figure out how to contact lawmakers, something needs to change, and the answer is not to alter the referendum process to make it even more burdensome for Mainers to raise their voices. That’s not democracy – that’s suppression.

Jacob Powers