Portland, ME – March 21, 2017 – Mainers for Open Elections, a state organization working for open elections at all levels, and Open Primaries, a national leader on election reform, released a new survey that shines a light on the disconnect between Maine voters and the current political system. The survey identifies broad support for reforming the state’s primary elections.
81% of Maine voters feel that Congressional representatives do “what’s best for their party” rather than the voters. 87% support electoral changes that foster more accountability to the voters. 80% of Mainers want independent voters— who make up 37% of Maine’s electorate—included in primary elections.
Additional findings include:
- Support for opening the primaries in Maine runs deep across all demographics, with majorities of women (81%), men (73%), Democrats (74%), Republicans (68%), Independents (87%), and majorities of voters in all age groups supporting reform.
- Only one in three voters believe that Maine’s elected leaders have been successful at bringing voters together.
- 73% of voters believe taxpayer funded primaries should be open to all voters. (The parties have asserted that as private associations, they should determine who can and cannot participate in primary elections. However, primary elections are paid for by Maine taxpayers and administered by state and local election agencies.)
The survey comes in the wake of the 2016 Presidential Primaries, which drew claims of a “rigged” process and saw 26 million independent voters across the country locked out of the first round of elections. Closed primaries cost taxpayers $288 million, according to a recent survey. In direct response, Maine State Representatives Kent Ackley and Owen Casás, both political independents, introduced legislation (LD 78) that would give independent voters the right to participate in the primaries. The first committee hearing drew over a dozen supporters and experts to testify in favor of the bill, including current and former legislators, the Mayor of Augusta David Rollins, and leaders of Mainers for Open Elections. The bill is one of many efforts around the country to open the primary elections to all voters.
“We began our organization to fight for a better future for our state, and the country,” said Joe Pickering, President of Mainers for Open Elections. “We’re strongly supporting the bill pending before the legislature right now. But should it fail, these poll results show Mainers would easily pass it as a ballot measure. That should send a message to the politicians: the time to act is now.”
“Maine has always been at the forefront of political innovation and voter empowerment from their innovative ballot design in the 1930s to passing ranked choice voting last year” said John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries. “The 2016 presidential primary showed how outrageous it is to exclude tens of millions of independents from having a voice. Clearly, the people of Maine are interested in change. I hope they are not ignored.”
Open Primaries and Mainers for Open Elections surveyed 771 registered Maine voters- Republicans, Democrats and independents- from March 6-7. The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling.
The full survey can be found here.