AUGUSTA — On Monday, April 25, the Maine Senate enacted a bill from Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, that would create semi-open primaries in Maine. LD 231, “An Act to Create Semi-Open Primaries,” received unanimous, bipartisan support.

“Maine is home to a large number of voters who don’t completely identify with one political party or another,” Maxmin said. “But because they’re not enrolled as Democrats or Republicans, they’re locked out of primary elections that their tax dollars pay for. I don’t think that’s fair, and I don’t think that it makes for the strongest democracy. I’m so glad to see this bill get such strong support. When we encourage and allow more voters to participate in our elections, we all benefit.”

In Maine, unenrolled voters comprise roughly one-third of all registered voters. Nationwide, 49% of veterans and 50% 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.

As amended, LD 231 would allow unenrolled voters to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary each cycle, without changing their party affiliation. If a voter becomes unenrolled by withdrawing from a party, they may not participate in any primary for 15 days, unless they are also registering to vote at a new address. This aligns with current law regarding primary participation for voters switching parties.

In addition, unenrolled voters who participate in a party’s primary must be considered party members for the purpose of allocating delegates to the party’s state convention or presidential nominating convention. If an unenrolled voter participates in a party primary, their participation will be tracked in the central voter registration system, as is done for party members.

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, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd Dist., former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, and by the editorial boards of the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald, the Ellsworth American and the Mount Desert Islander.

LD 231 now goes to Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to either sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.

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