Sen. Maxmin introduces bill to create semi-open primaries in Maine

Tue, 04/13/2021 - 9:45am

    AUGUSTA — On Monday, Senator Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, introduced LD 231, “An Act To Establish Open Primaries,” which would allow unenrolled voters, also known as independents, to vote in either a Republican or Democratic primary.

    The bill was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

    In Maine, unenrolled voters comprise roughly one-third of all registered voters, according to a news release. Nationwide, 49 percent of veterans and 50 percent of millennial voters are unenrolled or consider themselves unaffiliated with either party.

    Under Maine’s current system, these voters are not allowed to vote in either party’s primary races unless they register with that party.

    LD 231 would allow unenrolled voters to participate in either the Democratic or Republican each cycle without changing their party affiliation.

    “For so many Mainers, being an independent is a key part of their political identity,” said Sen. Maxmin. “But primaries are important parts of our political process that these voters are currently shut out of. Many races are effectively decided in the primary, and even though unenrolled voters can’t participate, they still fund these elections with their tax dollars. I’ve heard from so many of my constituents that our current political system isn’t working for them and isn’t hearing their voices. This bill would make some of the necessary changes to get our politics back on track.”

    “In Maine and across the country, independents are growing more popular than the two major parties,” said Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, who introduced a similar measure. “This is a trend that will only continue as time goes on, and I believe Maine needs to adjust its current primary system to reflect that. We are currently disenfranchising independent Mainers from choosing the major election nominees, and something has to change.”

    LD 231 is cosponsored by Democratic, Republican, and independent members of the Legislature and has been endorsed by the League of Women Voters, Veterans for Political Innovation and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. 

    LD 231 faces further action in committee.