History

The semi-open primary has been percolating in the Maine since at least the early 1990s.

In 1993, Rep. William Lemke (D-Westbrook) sponsored the first semi-open primaries bill with bipartisan co- sponsorship. Lemke’s attempts to pass open primaries legislation in the 116th, 117th, and 118th sessions was met with resistance, but the legislation earned the support of 33 lawmakers without grassroots or direct lobbying to aid Lemke’s efforts.

In 2015, Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta) introduced the first semi-open primaries bill since the mid-1990s with impressive co-sponsorship.

In 2017, Rep. Kent Ackley (I-Monmouth) introduced a bill to open Maine’s primaries to unenrolled voters with Katz and Rep. Owen Casas (I-Rockport) as co-sponsors. For the first time, a real effort was made to organize Maine citizens to testify in support of the legislation. With only several weeks notice, 25 bill supporters attended the public hearing and testified in support of the bill. As a result of citizen testimony, four of the thirteen lawmakers in committee voted in support of the semi-open primaries bill.

On the House floor, Rep. Ackley requested a roll call vote and spoke to his motion. With little debate and minimal grassroots lobbying of the full legislative chamber, the legislation earned the support of 42 state representatives, more than half of the votes needed for passage in the lower chamber.

In 2019, Rep. Ackley introduced the same bill, LD 211, which will be considered by the Maine Legislature this session.


Below are links provided by the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library to legislative history about “open primaries” bills that were considered by the Maine Legislature.

116th Legislative Session (1993-1994)

Bill No.: LD 367

Proposal: Semi-open primary

Sponsors: Representatives LEMKE of Westbrook, BOWERS of Washington, DEXTER of Kingfield, JOSEPH of Waterville, RICHARDSON of Portland, STEVENS of Sabattus, WENTWORTH of Arundel

Status: Rep. Lemke asked for a roll call vote in the State House. 33 Representatives voted against the ONTP motion (for open primaries). The bill was indefinitely postponed.

Link: http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/Meta/LegHist/116/lh116-LD-0367.pdf

117th Legislative Session (1995-1996)

Bill No.: LD 610

Proposal: Semi-open primary

Sponsors: Representatives LEMKE of Westbrook, GERRY of Auburn, GREEN of Monmouth, JONES of Bar Harbor

Status: Rep. Lemke asked for a roll call vote in the State House. 28 Representatives voted against the ONTP motion (for open primaries). The bill was indefinitely postponed.

Link: http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/Meta/LegHist/117/lh117-LD-0610.pdf

118th Legislative Session (1997-1998)

Bill No.: LD 986

Proposal: Semi-open primary

Sponsors: Representatives LEMKE of Westbrook, LOVETT of Scarborough

Status: ONTP committee report. Died under the hammer.

Link: http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/Meta/LegHist/118/lh118-LD-0986.pdf

126th Legislative Session (2013-2014)

Bill No.: LD 1422

Proposal: Nonpartisan primaries and Ranked Choice Voting

Sponsors: Representatives RYKERSON of Kittery, BEAVERS of South Berwick, BROOKS of Winterport, CASSIDY of Lubec, CHAPMAN of Brooksville, CHENETTE of Saco, EVANGELOS of Friendship, FARNSWORTH of Portland, McGOWAN of York, SCHNECK of Bangor; Senator WOODBURY of Cumberland

Status: ONTP committee report. Died under the hammer.

Link: http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/Meta/LegHist/126/lh126-LD-1422.pdf

127th Legislative Session (2015-2016)

Bill No.: LD 744

Proposal: Semi-open primary

Sponsors: Senators KATZ of Kennebec, BAKER of Sagadahoc, DIAMOND of Cumberland, LANGLEY of Hancock, ROSEN of Hancock, SAVIELLO of Franklin, VALENTINO of York; Representatives CHENETTE of Saco, MAKER of Calais, DION of Portland

Status: ONTP committee report. Died under the hammer.

Link: http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/Meta/LegHist/127/lh127-LD-0744.pdf

128th Legislative Session (2017-2018)

Bill No.: LD 78

Proposal: Semi-open primary

Sponsors: Representatives ACKLEY of Monmouth, CASAS of Rockport; Senator KATZ of Kennebec

Status: Rep. Ackley requested a roll call vote in the State House. 42 Representatives voted against the ONTP motion (and in favor of open primaries). The bill was indefinitely postponed.

Link: http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/Meta/LegHist/128/lh128-LD-0078.pdf

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