Portland – The ACLU of Maine has published questionnaires filled out by Maine candidates for District Attorney on a new website, www.DAforME.com.
Seven candidates have filled out the questionnaires, which were mailed to all 16 candidates in the eight prosecutorial districts across Maine. The new website aims to educate voters about the power of DAs, and about the candidates’ positions on key criminal justice issues. It also allows users to compare candidates’ answers to each other.
“District attorneys make decisions that impact all of us,” said Alison Beyea, executive director at the ACLU of Maine. “Their views on criminal justice policy set the tone for how our communities respond to societal issues. They help decide whether our communities lock kids up, whether we treat people fairly, and how we spend our limited tax dollars. If you care about any of these things, you should care about who gets elected to be the DA.”
Research shows that many voters have little understanding of what DAs do. Polling also shows that a high percentage of voters do not go down the ballot to vote for district attorney.
Most candidates for district attorney – 70 percent nationwide in 2016 – run unopposed. This year, half of the district attorney candidates in Maine do not face an opponent. When candidates run unopposed, there is little incentive for them to be responsive to the public.
“DAs hold a huge amount of power in the criminal justice system. They are also elected officials – which means they answer to the public. It is up to all of us to hold them accountable,” said Beyea.
While the ACLU does not endorse candidates for office, the organization does offer information about where candidates stand on key civil liberties issues. Over a dozen ACLU affiliates across the country are spearheading DA education and accountability campaigns ahead of this election.
In addition to the website, the ACLU is hosting a Cumberland County DA candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. on May 24 at USM Luther Bonney Hall, Talbot Auditorium.
Panelists include Greg Kesich, Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram editorial page editor, who will serve as moderator; Oamshri Amarasingham, ACLU of Maine advocacy director; and Thea Johnson, Maine Law associate professor.
Organizations partnering with the ACLU of Maine include EqualityMaine, GLAD, Health Equity Alliance, Homeless Voices for Justice, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Maine NAACP, and Preble Street.