Two Bills Introduced in Maine Legislature to Open Primary Elections

MAINE — The Portland Press Herald reported Wednesday that two bills will be considered by Maine lawmakers that would allow unaffiliated voters to fully participate in public elections. According to the story, independent voters make up the largest voting bloc in Maine and have for quite some time. However, they are denied access to the publicly-funded primary election process.

“Supporters told lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday that the efforts are designed to reverse the disenfranchisement of Maine’s largest voting [bloc] and, perhaps, lead to the election of moderate candidates less wedded to party ideology and aligned interest groups,” the Portland Press Herald reports.

“Similar proposals have been routinely – and usually quietly – defeated in the Legislature. Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, the sponsor of L.D. 744, said that’s because the initiatives are perceived as threats to the two major political parties.”

According to the most recent voter data, 367,771 active registered voters are not registered with a political party. This is a little over 37 percent of the active voter roll. Yet Maine is one of several states with a closed or semi-closed primary process that requires voters to register with a party if they want to participate in the first stage of the public election process.

“Let’s face it, there is a large [bloc] of people out there who do not have a great deal of confidence in either political party and just do not want an R or a D next to their name,” Katz said Wednesday. “That is really unfortunate, and perhaps not fair, but we must face that as a reality.”

 

Katz said his proposal is designed to encourage participation by allowing unenrolled voters to cast ballots during primary elections. He noted the “pathetic” voter turnout in the 2014 primary. It was 10 percent statewide and 14 percent nationally, according to the Center for Study for the American Electorate. Last year, Maine’s 58.5 percent turnout led the nation in the general election, when unenrolled voters participated.

 

Under Katz’s proposal, Maine would join the 24 states that have hybrid primary systems. – Portland Press Herald, April 1, 2015

Read the full report here

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