Maine’s primary elections are fast approaching, and it’s an excellent opportunity for us Mainers to take a moment to appreciate our democratic process, which is truly unique and remarkable and a system that, despite the threats to it, is still loved by so many around the globe.

As an immigrant who has called Maine home for a decade, I have experienced several local and national elections. Each time I stood in line at Yarmouth High School, casting my vote alongside Americans, new and native, I was reminded of my past and the challenging path that led to that moment. It is a profound experience, one that fills me with gratitude for the privilege to participate in this democratic process and play a role in shaping our collective future.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at

In many countries around the world, expressing political views on social media can lead to arrest or suppression. Members of the diaspora community living in the United States have had a positive influence in our countries of origin by promoting democracy and fair elections through our own experiences. We’ve showcased our participation in the electoral process in the United States, openly expressing our voting preferences and policy ideas. This freedom to engage in the political process is a dream for millions worldwide, and it’s one that we must not take for granted. Maine’s newest communities understand this. Ask the community from Rwanda, where the same president has been in power since 2000. Ask those from Djibouti, which has had the same president since 1999. Ask the Somalis, where there are seven presidents in a country the size of Texas and ordinary people did not vote for them.

In the United States, our voices matter not only on the Election Day when we select a president, but throughout the year as well, whether it’s through primaries, caucuses or state and municipal elections. This sense of involvement and community engagement is a refreshing experience for many new Mainers like myself. It’s a privilege that we’ve only recently known, but one that we must actively protect and nurture.

With the Maine primaries taking place next week, I’ve noticed a growing interest among my fellow new Mainers who can vote in this country to deeply discuss issues that concern our communities. While immigration is a major issue, we also consider candidates based on their determination to protect and defend the little bit of freedom that we still have. We recognize the importance of our voice and the power of the people, and we’re determined to make ourselves heard. This collective effort is a testament to the strength and resilience of our democracy, or rather the democracy that we earned through naturalization, and it’s something we must continue to cherish and defend.

However, American elections are not without their challenges. Voter suppression, gerrymandering and the influence of big money in politics remain constant issues. There’s still work to be done to ensure true democratic representation for all, and it’s a challenge that we must confront together.

What concerns me most is when influential American figures, like Tucker Carlson, promote dictators and leaders who do not believe in democracy. Having lived under a system where fear and persecution were common, it’s disheartening to witness Americans supporting systems that suppress democracy and freedom in other parts of the world. It’s a contradiction that we must address, and it’s essential that we hold our leaders accountable for their actions and words.

When I first arrived in the U.S. over a decade ago, I never imagined that I would be advocating for freedom and democracy against fellow Americans. Yet, here we are, determined to protect and preserve the democracy that we’ve come to appreciate and value.

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