Recently, there has been a lot of public hand-wringing by the conservative commentariat, warning voters about the angry “mob” mentality taking over the Democratic Party. Mainstream Democrats are now branded radical activists by this narrative, “questioning the legitimacy of core elements of our system.” (Rich Lowry, Sun Journal, Oct. 16).

Meanwhile, several Republican candidates for statewide and legislative office are attacking the Maine Constitution and that goes unnoticed.

In a recent Maine Calling radio interview, one Republican candidate, when asked what should be done about the partisan divide in Maine, made a remarkable assertion. Change the citizen referendum process — the “root cause” (direct quote) of the partisan divide in Maine. Laws passed by that process, it was said, are “contentious,” “create a lot of dissension” and should not “bypass the legislature.”

Wait. Isn’t that what Article IV, Part 3, sections 18-19 of the Maine Constitution specifies — how citizens, using the referendum process, can enact laws directly, bypassing the Legislature.

Mainers who twice enacted ranked-choice voting by citizen initiative might disagree with that candidate’s view. While collecting signatures for that effort, I spoke with many voters who have a different take on citizen referendums — not as a cause of the partisan divide but an antidote to the hyperpartisanship that paralyzes legislating.

The right to petition the government is a core element of democracy. Before I mark my ballot in the November election, I want to know who will protect that right and who are the radical activists threatening to undermine it.

Ralph Harder, Auburn

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