A bipartisan group of legislative leaders expressed support Monday for switching back to presidential primary elections in Maine after record voter turnout led to lengthy delays at some caucus locations over the weekend. Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, renewed the caucuses-versus-primaries debate one day after unprecedented turnout forced Portland’s Democratic leaders to accept thousands of absentee ballots rather than require participants to attend traditional caucus meetings. Many left without voting, either unable or unwilling to wait up to four hours in a line that stretched a half-mile outside Deering High School. While Alfond acknowledged that town meeting-style caucuses have advantages, he said a primary format is preferable during presidential-election years because voters cast ballots throughout the day rather than congregate for an hours-long meeting.
“We need to do it more efficiently,” Alfond said Monday. “We can’t have a system that turns away voters, and that’s what (happened) yesterday and Saturday.”
Alfond quickly picked up bipartisan support from several legislative leaders – support that will be critical if they hope to shepherd a primary election bill through the Legislature in the final weeks of the session.
“Let’s not drop the ball and let’s not turn this into a political football. This isn’t Republican or Democratic,” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport. “This is about making sure that people have the opportunity to cast their ballot. The primary process is a much easier process for them to be able to do that.”