In a polarized political environment, large bipartisan votes on bills in the Maine Legislature are unusual. One such vote took place last year, when the Maine Senate voted 27-7 and the Maine House 92-52 in favor of L.D. 231, An Act to Establish Semi-open Primaries.

So, what exactly would this notably bipartisan bill do? It’s a small but significant change, really: Maine voters who are not enrolled in a political party would be able to participate in the primary election of their choice without having to first enroll in a party.

You might assume that L.D. 231, with its favorable vote in both legislative chambers, is already on its way to implementation. But wait! There’s one more barrier it must overcome: cost. The cost of implementation for L.D. 231 was estimated at a one-time expense of $200,932 in fiscal year 2023-24 for “additional ballot and postage costs.” For semi-open primaries to become a reality in Maine, the Appropriations Committee must approve this cost.

The League of Women Voters of Maine supports semi-open primaries. We support printing enough ballots for every voter to participate in our taxpayer-funded elections. What would it say if this bill actually motivated more Mainers to participate in primary elections, but we refused to pay for the ballots to allow them to do so? The cost of printing more ballots is a small price to pay for a more inclusive democracy. And so, we urge the Legislature to include semi-open primaries in the supplemental budget.

Anna Kellar
executive director, League of Women Voters of Maine

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