Why open Maine's primaries to unenrolled voters?


Maine’s closed primary law denies 35% of voters who are unenrolled the right to vote in taxpayer-funded elections that decide 70% of state legislative races. That’s why 80% of Maine voters support adopting semi-open primaries, and it’s why lawmakers in 36 states have already opened their primaries to unenrolled voters.

  • 80% of Maine voters support opening primaries to unenrolled voters (PPP, March 2017). LD 211, "An Act To Open Maine's Primaries," would allow unenrolled voters to cast one ballot in the primary of their choice.

  • 70% of legislative races are effectively decided in primaries (SOS results). In districts that skew towards one party or another, primary elections often serve as de facto general elections. Maine’s closed primary law prevents many unenrolled voters from voting in the only election that really matters in their legislative district.
  • 50% of young Mainers and veterans are shut out of primaries (Pew, IAVA). Maine’s closed primary law disproportionately and negatively impacts young Mainers and the veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, roughly 50% of whom are independents. Unenrolled new Mainers and women are also shut out of primaries.
  • 36 states have already opened their primaries to unenrolled voters (NCSL). Maine has led the nation in strengthening our democracy, but when it comes to the openness and inclusiveness of primary elections, Maine has fallen behind the 36 other states where lawmakers have already opened their primaries.
  • 4 in 10 voters are blocked from voting in elections they pay for. Primary elections are funded by taxpayers, governed by statute, and administered by state and local government administrators. L.D. 211 would allow the 35-37% of Maine voters who are unenrolled from year to year to participate in all elections.

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