Independent voters need to make themselves heard in the Sept. 5 primary

August 24, 2023 5:00 am

Three voting booths await early voters casting ballots in the 1st Congressional District special primary in a room on the ground floor of Newport City Hall on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. (Janine L. Weisman.Rhode Island Current)

As a citizen, it’s troubling to me that only a small minority of voters are likely to determine who will represent Rhode Island in Congress. This is the practical reality in our state, where the Democratic primary – this year on Tuesday, Sept. 5 – often determines the final outcome.

I am registered as an unaffiliated, or “independent” voter.  I do this because it is the best way for me to evaluate all candidates from all parties.  As an independent, I know it is my responsibility to vote to make sure my views are heard, something I take very seriously. It also allows me to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary. This is important, because if I do not vote in primaries, I have let others narrow my choices for me.

In the past, when I won a seat on the Portsmouth Town Council I did so as a registered Democrat. I made this choice because the local party not only encouraged me to run but also offered valuable insight and support to me as a first-time candidate. While I chose to seek only one term, it was truly an honor to serve.

While serving on the council, I came to believe that local elections should be nonpartisan, in order to better focus on what is most important for the community. It was in that spirit that during my tenure I proposed a measure, which ultimately passed, to remove the option that allowed for a party-line vote. I argued that we should evaluate every person who chooses to run – not just pull a party lever. If someone runs for office, we should consider their candidacy on its own merits and not strictly based on party affiliation.

Running for office takes a significant commitment of time and effort. I make it a point to thank all candidates for running and always sign nomination papers to qualify candidates for the ballot.

That said, I am concerned that the ultimate winner of the election for the open Congressional seat in Rhode Island’s first district may well receive less than 10,000 votes in the primary election, representing less than 10% of eligible voters in the district. This is troubling because it means that all voices are not being heard.

I understand that we live in a very confrontational political climate that may turn people off from politics. But as a state with only two congressional representatives (and we were close to having only one) we need to realize that the stakes are high and that every vote counts – even more than usual.

As a state with only two congressional representatives (and we were close to having only one) we need to realize that the stakes are high and that every vote counts – even more than usual.

Our congressional delegation is important for many reasons. It directs federal investments in our state’s infrastructure. It supports key industries and makes our voices heard on crucial, even historic questions.

That’s why, if you are registered as an independent (or unaffiliated) voter, I strongly encourage you to review all the candidates and vote in the upcoming primary for Congress on Sept. 5.  If you like, you can disaffiliate from the party whose primary you voted in back to an independent immediately after you vote.  But please do make your vote count.

As he left Independence Hall after drafting the Constitution, a woman in the crowd asked Ben Franklin what kind of government the founders had formed.  He responded – “A republic, if you can keep it.”  The most obvious, and frankly easy, way to keep faith with Franklin, and with the founders, is to vote.

So please show up on Tuesday, Sept. 5.


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Molly Donohue Magee
Molly Donohue Magee

Molly Donohue Magee has a proven record of effective leadership of diverse and highly successful nonprofit, for-profit, and government organizations. She is currently the executive director of a nonprofit organization that focuses on facilitating and championing tech, talent, and innovation for the defense industry.