I was intrigued by Wednesday’s online headline: “Maine’s congressional primary draws heavy turnout.” That’s surprising, I thought, although I had followed both the Democratic and Republican contests with interest.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that only about 62,000 Mainers voted in the 2nd District congressional primaries – about 13 percent of active, registered voters, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.
The story then suggests that in Portland, the “high turnout was likely due to the citizen initiative question … .” High turnout? 18 percent?
Your editors should be ashamed of themselves for such nonsense. The only person who correctly put this year’s turnout in context was Jessica Grondin, Portland’s spokeswoman, who said that Portland’s turnout was “heavier than normal turnout for a primary.”
We should be ashamed of our failed primary system, which uses public tax dollars to fund private, partisan contests.
The largest bloc of registered voters – those not enrolled in any party – is not able to participate in these “elections” at all. And those who are enrolled in political parties can hardly be bothered to turn out.
It’s time we overhaul our election system in Maine, creating open primaries in which any registered voter can cast a ballot, and which would promote the top-two vote-getters – regardless of party – to the general election in November.