This saying is familiar to everyone: Don’t talk politics in mixed company.

It’s true, politics can be divisive and it has ruined more than one dinner party this year. Our divisions have actually hurt some of our personal relationships (and strengthened others), and yet, I’m going to attempt that rare balancing act of discussing politics in mixed company.

Why would I attempt such a feat? I have two reasons actually. The primary reason is because five weeks before an election is one of the few times when we actually should be discussing this, for those that haven’t paid much attention or for those who tend to avoid politics all together. If you avoided politics since the midterms in 2018, you really owe it to yourself to plug back in for a month or so and get knowledgeable about what and who you’re going to be voting on.

The second reason is the same reason I give when friends tell me I shouldn’t discuss politics on social media, and it is this: as an engaged Independent I see both sides of many disagreements and feel I’m equipped to have these conversations. There are others who are passionate and pragmatic enough like me who choose not engage in these difficult conversations because it’s ‘easier to avoid it.’ I feel strongly that if those who are equipped to have these conversations choose not to, then by definition all that remains are those ill-equipped to have these conversations, so I feel a responsibility to bring up these points.

Yes, I do realize know how arrogant that sounds, yet it is the way I feel. I think I can help, and so I’m going to try to. For a disclaimer I will say, though I don’t think anything below is controversial enough to warrant this disclaimer, that the opinions expressed in this column are my own and are not reflective of the organization I work for.

So, here we go with some political pieces I think everyone should be aware of as we head into the 2020 Elections:

Is this the most important election of our lifetime?
Yes. Because it is the next one. That isn’t intended to be a flippant answer, but each election gives us the opportunity to make our voice heard. We can change the course of our future with each election (especially in the even numbered years when many of our seats are open again).

No seat in the Maine Legislature is a given. They are all up for re-election every two years. It’s the same with the U.S. House of Representatives. The power is in the hands of the people. We are the checks and balances. We get to show, with our vote, if we believe in their leadership or if we want a new path- that is the greatest collective power that there is.

Additionally, it’s a Presidential election year which always adds a level of importance. Considering the myriad of issues happening in our world, the Presidency, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives seats are all critically important for our future and what direction we take.

Is there any reason not to vote?
Nope. Between mail-in ballots, absentee ballots and in-person balloting there is no excuse not to vote, in my opinion. If you are disheartened with the direction of the world or are uninspired by all candidates for certain offices, then write-in a candidate of choice. Even if the candidates don’t thrill you, there are often town warrants and other ballot measures to vote on. Make your voice heard in your community, in your state and in your country. In many ways the disenfranchised voices are the ones we need to hear the most from.

I suggest everyone make a plan on how you will vote — not which candidates — but ask yourself if you feel safe to vote in-person and if not make the arrangements for mail-in or absentee voting now. Maybe you work three jobs and or don’t have transportation to get to a polling location- then plan how you will get an absentee ballot. If you have questions on how to do that, has a Voter’s Guide, or call the chamber office at (207) 725-8797 and I’d be happy to answer any questions I can (though I’ll never tell you WHO to vote for, only HOW to cast a vote).

Using Ranked-Choice Voting
Yes, the State of Maine uses Ranked Choice Voting which is a different ballot then you may be used to. The ballot asks you to rank the candidates in terms of who is your first choice, and who is your second choice, and who is your third choice and so on. The idea is, if there is no consensus winner after the first choices are all counted (meaning over 50%) then the candidate who got the least amount of votes is knocked out of the race and the ballots for that candidate are run through again with the machine taking their second choice. Eventually there becomes one candidate with over 50% of the vote and they are declared the winner.

It’s confusing if you haven’t seen it, but has a ranked-choice voting explanation video you can watch or contact the chamber and we can explain it.

Getting To Know Your Candidates
This is a shameless plug which I will dive into more next week as I continue this series for the month of October, but our Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber has interviewed the candidates for all of the state of Maine races in our 16 community region: Bath, Brunswick, Harpswell, Topsham, Arrowsic, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Dresden, Edgecomb, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Richmond West Bath, Westport Island, Wiscasset and Woolwich.

The videos are being released all week on the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber Facebook page. These are 12-15 minute videos where you get to hear from the candidates in their own words. It’s a great way to meet your candidates.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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