It is an essential principle of our democracy: The people have a right to vote and have a right to select the candidates and parties they want to vote for according to the laws, not the partisan whims of officials.

But you’d never know it by what’s going on in Maine, where Secretary of State Shenna Bellows took the unprecedented step of sending a targeted mailing directed at all 6,456 citizens of Maine who had recently registered as No Labels Party members, questioning if they really meant to join No Labels and casting aspersions on the organization. Did she send the same letter to people who registered as Democrats or Republicans over the last four months, asking them if they were sure about their decision? Of course not.

The No Labels movement has been gathering support in Maine and across the nation to give voters the option to support a unity ticket – a Democrat and a Republican to bring our nation together in 2024 so we can solve some of our toughest problems.

No Labels gave detailed written guidance to all our organizers and volunteers in Maine on following all the laws. The form they used was provided by the state and featured “MAINE VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION” at the top in all-capital bold letters. To change their affiliation, a voter needed to individually check “Other Qualifying party” and then personally write in the words “No Labels.” To date, hundreds of city and town clerks across Maine have verified that 6,456 No Labels voter registrations are valid.

Of course, it is possible in such a large-scale project that some voters may have mistaken No Labels’ effort for a petition drive and/or that a small number of No Labels’ organizers could have deviated from the clearly written instructions they were given. No Labels immediately asked the secretary of state to provide information about any actual instance of an organizer misstating the purpose of No Labels’ effort, but she has not responded. Nonetheless, No Labels is implementing additional training measures to prevent any future misunderstandings and will promptly dismiss any organizer found to have acted improperly, if that did indeed occur. We will keep building our movement in Maine and across the country.

The point is, though, that the secretary of state acted in a way that unnecessarily intimidated thousands of Maine voters. In a time when political division and partisanship have become the norm, this sort of behavior by a state official shouldn’t surprise us, but it is unacceptable and undemocratic. Republicans and Democrats should be required to earn votes, not receive them by default through a system that blocks out other choices on the ballot.


We welcome a comprehensive debate about No Labels’ 2024 project. Reasonable people, hopefully with civility, can disagree about the best way to heal the political divisions afflicting our nation.

But we won’t let the voice of America’s common-sense majority be shouted down or suppressed by partisan bullying. We have the privilege to live in the oldest continuous democracy in the world.

No party or candidate owns any American’s vote. A vote is something a candidate or party must earn, not expect as a result of blind loyalty or partisan animosity. There are times like today when we should put the future good of the nation ahead of the narrow interest of our political party.

No Labels’ work to bring more voices and choices state by state into the political process is not a threat to democracy; it is to ensure and protect American democracy.

In fact, it is what democracy is all about – and we feel blessed to live in this great one.

Correction (June 7, 2023): An earlier version of this op-ed inaccurately suggested that the Secretary of State’s letter had been leaked to the Press Herald.

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