Friday, May 10, 2019

Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

On Friday morning, May 10, the Maine Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee convened for a working session on a number of bills. Among those considered were a trio of bills attempting in various ways to reestablish a presidential primary election in the Pine Tree state.

The first two were treated together as they were basically the same bill. The only thing that separated the pair was the date on which the election was to be scheduled. LD 245 would leave the decision up to the secretary of state in consultation with the political parties in Maine. The other -- LD 1626 --would reestablish the presidential primary in Maine and schedule it for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March (Super Tuesday in 2020). Due to the similarity between the bills, LD 245 was unanimously voted down (as ought not pass) in order to make LD 1626 the vehicle for creating the presidential primary in this way.

However, after amending LD 1626 -- fixing some typos, correcting some cross-reference issues and adding a provision to allow state parties to allow unaffiliated voters in the state to choose which primary in which to participate -- sentiment on the committee was still evenly split. And the point of contention was the financing of the election (something that came up in the original public hearing for LD 245). Five committee members balked at the financial burden the election would place on municipalities. But the committee recommendation on the amended bill was complicated by the absence of one member -- Rep. Craig Hickman (D-81, Winthrop) -- during the voting on an ought not pass recommendation. His return for the vote on a do pass recommendation equalized the number of votes in favor of both recommendations. The voting on these reports remains open under Maine legislative rules until noon of the next legislative day.

If anything, all this does is demonstrate to the leadership on the floors of either legislative chamber the division over this bill in committee. That does not doom the legislation, per se, but other bills may be prioritized.

And that brings this back to the other bill the committee considered; the bill (LD 1083) to reestablish the presidential primary but under a ranked choice voting system. The catch with that one -- although it was not discussed -- is that it, too, would carry a similar financial burden for municipalities across the state of Maine. What did come up were a number of conflicts in the bill that would be rectified by another measure to clean up the operation of the overall ranked choice voting system the state has adopted for other federal elections. Pending consideration on those measure, the committee opted to table consideration of the ranked choice presidential primary.

All in all, the committee working session did little to advance the reestablishment of a presidential primary in Maine. LD 245 was eliminated from consideration, but the remaining two bills remain in limbo for the time being.

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for passing along news of the committee session.

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

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

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

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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