Maine lawmakers move state closer to open primary elections

June 10, 2021 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers in both the House and Senate approved am initial bill on Wednesday that aims to open primaries to unenrolled and independent voters.

The 92-52 vote in the House gives initial approval to a bill that would allow unenrolled and independent voters to participate in primary elections without having to register with a certain political party, the Portland Press Herald reported. The Senate previously voted 27-7 in support of the bill.

Additional votes are still necessary for the bill to pass. If it does, it would come into effect during the 2024 election, the newspaper said.

Under Maine’s current law, independent voters must register with a party in order to cast a ballot in a primary election. They are not allowed to withdraw from the party for at least three months.


This would be a success for the bill’s supporters, who have garnered bipartisan support after pushing this legislation for several years, the newspaper said.

“That’s very exciting because, oftentimes, voter reform efforts can be partisan, but that’s not the case here,” said Democratic state Rep. Chloe Maxmin, lead sponsor of the bill.

The state’s unenrolled voters account for about one-third of all registered voters.

Republican state Rep. Will Tuell said allowing independent voters to participate in party primaries might be a way to encourage more bipartisanship.

Opponents to the bill said that independent voters already have access to voting; they just have to pick a party.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has yet to say where she stands on the bill.