Saturday, March 16, 2019

Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

While legislation to reestablish a presidential in Maine under the same conditions as an expired 2016 law awaits a committee work session, another effort with a similar goal in mind has emerged.

The bill, sponsored by state Senate president, Troy Jackson (D-1st, Aroostook) and nine other Senate Democrats, would reestablish a presidential primary option, grant state parties the discretion to opt into using the state-funded contest, and leave the scheduling of the contest up to the secretary of state. LD 1083 provides the Maine secretary of state further guidance on scheduling, limiting the officer to any day in March. Each of those provisions, however, is exactly like those in the previously introduced LD 245.

Yet, LD 1083 is neither a replica of the other bill nor the bill reestablishing a presidential primary for a set second Tuesday in March date promised by the office of the secretary of state. No, LD 1083 is different because not only does it reestablish a presidential primary, but it applies the ranked choice voting system utilized in other primary and general election contests in the Pine Tree state.

Maine is not the first legislature where ranked choice voting has been raised in the context of presidential nominations in 2019. Legislators in neighboring New Hampshire are also considering the adoption of ranked choice voting in its presidential primaries. However, unlike the New Hampshire bill, the Maine effort does not clearly detail how the ranked choice system is to operate. The New Hampshire bill is designed with delegate allocation in mind, cutting off the elimination of candidates at those below the 15 percent threshold instead of winnowing to one winner. The Maine bill does not clearly account for the differences between the presidential primary and those for other offices. That said, the ranked choice law already on the books does grant the secretary of state some discretion in determining the rules of the ranked choice system in a given election. And the state parties, under the bill, are given the ability to select and allocation delegates in "accordance with any reasonable procedures established at the state party convention."

Although this bill has nine Democratic co-sponsors, it remains to be seen whether this bill will supplant the other active bill or anything from the secretary of state as the main vehicle for reestablishing the presidential primary in Maine. There will be a committee hearing on the ranked choice bill next week.

Side Note: LD 1083 would also establish ranked choice voting as the means by which presidential electors are chosen -- still by congressional district -- as well. In other words, the intent is to apply ranked choice voting to both facets of the presidential election process.

1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

2/9/19: Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday

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