The campaign to hold presidential primaries in Maine took a tentative step forward Monday. A legislative committee voted unanimously in support of a bill that directs the Secretary of State’s Office to begin the groundwork for switching Maine from a caucus state to a primary state starting with the 2020 presidential election. The push toward holding primary elections gained traction last month after a record number of voters overwhelmed some caucus sites. Lawmakers added a clause to the bill, L.D. 1673, that would allow the Legislature to stick with caucuses if it is uncomfortable with the anticipated cost or other aspects of holding primaries. “We’re moving in a different direction but recognizing that we need to figure out a lot of these details,” said Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, the lead sponsor of the bill.
Maine is among the minority of states that hold presidential caucuses rather than primaries. Although the format varies from election to election, Maine caucus-goers typically gather in town halls, schools or other locations to hear speeches and then vote collectively for their presidential preferences. Caucuses usually take several hours but are valuable organizational and voter engagement events for the political parties.
Primaries, by contrast, are run like general elections, as voters cast ballots at their dedicated polling places.
Alfond’s bill, which has bipartisan support, proposes presidential primaries that would be held on a Tuesday in March and be run by the state rather than the political parties.
Maine’s Republican and Democratic parties reported record turnout for their respective presidential caucuses March 5 and 6. But they reported long lines, crowded caucus locations and organizational challenges, most notably during Portland’s Democratic caucus.
Full Article: Bill to switch Maine to presidential primaries moves forward – The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.