Living anywhere outside the northern parts of the country means one probably does not know what the bone-chilling, bitter cold of negative-degree temperatures and wind chill feel like.
It bites. It blisters. It feels like nothing people outside these regions have ever experienced before.
As I describe this, one might wonder why anyone would voluntarily want to be out in such weather. Well, for volunteers with the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in Maine, defending voters' rights is worth it.
Over 1,100 volunteers continue to brave inhospitable cold to gather signatures across the state to get the People's Veto on the 2018 primary ballot and to overturn the legislature's decision to delay and repeal ranked choice voting, approved by voters in November 2016.
“We supported a citizen’s initiative last November, and won by the second-largest vote in the history of the state, yet the politicians, recognizing they would lose their power, overturned the results,” said Avery Arena, a college student who has been working for the campaign for over two years. "I can tell you from first hand experience that collecting signatures in the bitter cold is no fun, but it's worth it to protect the sanctity of our democracy."
It is a massive undertaking, and time is running out.
The campaign is in the final stretch of their petition drive to get over 61,000 signatures -- with a deadline of February 2 -- and face a tough task in subzero temperatures in the middle of one of the harshest Maine winters on record.
Even now, as the temperature finally peaks above 0˚ Fahrenheit again, volunteers for the People's Veto campaign pack the campaign's offices daily to not only help gather signatures, but organize the petitions and circulator forms.
Few had even heard of a "bomb cyclone" before this winter.
Despite this, the campaign remains optimistic that their hard work will pay off. They announced that Jon Fishman, drummer for the band Phish, will help collect signatures for the campaign, and they plan to be present at this year's Women's March to gather signatures.
“I hope everyone in America is watching what the people of Maine are doing to defend our democratic right to choose the way we elect our leaders,” said Cara Brown McCormick, treasurer of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. “The fact is we’re supposed to live in a democracy where the people get to make the decision about how we elect our leaders, and not the other way around.”