Monday, June 3, 2019

Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

A May 10 committee hearing left the fate of at least two presidential primary bills in limbo.

The first (LD 1083) would reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state for the first time since 2000 and schedule it for the second Tuesday in March under a ranked choice voting system. That bill was tabled by the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee and may well be dead for the 2019 session. Unless the committee takes it back up, then it will die there.

However, the second bill -- the one that would reestablish the presidential primary and schedule it for the first Tuesday in March, Super Tuesday (LD 1626) -- has gained new life after a split decision in the same May 10 working session. That even split between the mainly Republicans on the committee against the move to reestablish a presidential primary and the Democrats for the change meant that two reports were to have emerged from committee for the full chambers to potentially consider. One of those reports was an "ought not pass" report. But two additional reports, amending the original bill -- split the Democratic faction on the committee in support of the measure.

That led to two additional reports; two "ought to pass as amended" reports. And the issue in both was the treatment of unaffiliated voters in the state of Maine. One amended version allowed for the automatic participation of those voters not enrolled in one of the major parties in the state. But the other amended option opened the door to unaffiliated participation in the event that the state parties notify the secretary of state in Maine by December 1 of the year prior to a presidential election whether that segment of the electorate can participate. In other words, it gives state parties the option of allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in their primary. Failure to notify the secretary of state reverts the primary for that party to the traditional closed format that Maine has most often used.

Those reports came out of the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee last Friday and the state Senate wasted no time in acting upon them. On Monday, June 3, the state Senate passed -- 19-13 on a mainly party-line vote (only one Republican crossed ranks and joined Democrats in support of the measure) -- the state party option amended version of the bill.

The legislation now moves down to the state House for concurrence and moves Maine a little bit closer to not only reestablishing a presidential primary but scheduling it for Super Tuesday as well.

Side note: Recall that the Maine Democratic Party submitted a delegate selection plan to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee describing a caucus system for the 2020. But the party also added the caveat that the legislature was considering primary election legislation. At that time upon release of the draft plan, the Maine Democratic Party went on record as preferring the ranked choice voting bill. With the Super Tuesday bill moving and the ranked choice version perhaps headed for a death in committee, the state Democratic Party reaction will be worth following. The national party preference is for a primary where a state-run option is available, but that is only a preference. If the ranked choice aspect is a deal-breaker, then Maine Democrats could stick with the caucus format as laid out in their delegate selection plan.

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

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

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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