This November there will be a referendum on the ballot to restore the Maine Clean Elections system. I am voting for it. The Clean Elections Initiative strengthens our democracy by making our politicians more accountable to the average people they represent and lessens the influence of outside PACs.

Last November, I saw many ads and flyers from PACs I had never heard of, and reading the small print didn't help me know who was paying for them. The Maine Clean Elections Initiative would require that the top three donors to these organizations be named in the ads. That seems fair.

The Clean Elections Initiative would also make our representatives more accountable to the voters. Did you know that currently the Maine governor-elect can take money from any person, lobbyist or corporation for "inaugural and transition expenses" and not disclose these funds? That seems like a bad idea when all those appointments that governors make could easily be influenced by contributions. The Clean Elections initiative would require public disclosure of these contributions and how that money is spent. That would keep our governors honest. The Initiative also strengthens our present laws by increasing penalties for those that violate campaign finance law, so that breaking the law is never seen as "the cost of doing business."

Republican President Teddy Roosevelt once said, "The government is us; WE are the government, you and I."

Regardless of one's party or one's politics it is clear to me that if one doesn't fight to lessen the influence of money and increase transparency in our elections we are risking the great American ideal of government of the people, by the people, for the people ... I am taking a step to increase transparency and will vote for the Maine Clean Elections Initiative. I encourage everyone to find out more at mainecleanelections.org.

Martha Conway-Cole, Belfast