If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 15 years of living and voting in Maine, it’s that Mainers do not like to be put in a box.

We are an independent-minded folk, and for a plurality of Maine voters, that independent streak extends to our politics.

As a community organizer, I have spoken with countless Mainers of all stripes, and the refrain I hear over and over again is that politics – here in Maine and across the nation – have become so polarized and so acrimonious that many have opted not to affiliate with any political party; instead remaining unenrolled (“independent”), assessing candidates based on their policy proposals and what they stand for, not whether there is a “D” or an “R” next to their names.

Maine boasts one of the highest levels of voter participation in the country, and that should be a point of pride for all of us. We are an informed and engaged electorate, and we demonstrate that at the ballot box.

Unfortunately, when it comes to primary elections, voter turnout drops precipitously. The reason for this is obvious: Maine’s primary elections are closed, meaning one cannot vote in a primary unless registered with a party. Considering that 35 percent of Maine voters do not identify with a party, the practical implication of this policy is that countless Mainers are excluded from the process that determines which candidates advance to the general election.

Robust voter participation is something we should all strive for, and opening up the primary process to unenrolled voters will go a long way toward ensuring that our elected officials enjoy support across the broadest swath of the electorate, not just the party faithful.

Sarah Rawlings


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