Secretary of State Shenna Bellows plans to hold a design contest for a new state flag that voters will consider adopting this fall.

The basic elements of the state flag to be offered up for voter approval in November are set in state law: a pine tree centered on a buff background with a five-pointed blue star in the upper corner. But there already are multiple variations circulating around the state on flags, shirts, hats and other items.

State law leaves it to Bellows to decide what design to offer to voters, and she has chosen to ask for a little help.

“Secretary Bellows will call on artists and designers across the state to submit their interpretations of the design description to the contest so that she may select and announce the model flag before Mainers start voting in this fall’s general election,” her office said in a statement Thursday.

Lawmakers have made several attempts in recent years to change Maine’s state flag back to something more in line with the original flag. It was used from 1901 to 1909, when the state adopted the current flag featuring the state seal, with a moose resting under a pine tree flanked by a farmer and seaman on a blue field.

One design produced by a Portland company has been a commercial success, and some have pushed for that design to go to voters in the fall. But flag experts quickly pointed out that the popular design is a stylized take on the original 1901 flag, which featured a more realistic pine street with roots and fluffy branches.


The bill proposing to change the state flag narrowly passed last year by the Legislature after extensive debate. It originally called for a statewide vote last year, but Gov. Janet Mills withheld her signature until lawmakers returned this year. That effectively delayed the referendum to this fall, when turnout will be higher because of the presidential election.

Lawmakers earlier this year looked to delay the referendum even further by creating a commission to consult with Bellows on a new design to present to voters in 2026. That proposal passed both chambers, but it was never funded, so it died when lawmakers adjourned.

The popular design faced additional scrutiny last month, because it is similar to the “Appeal to Heaven Flag,” which also features a  solitary pine tree. That flag dates to the Revolutionary War era, but has become a symbol of far-right groups and was flown during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and more recently at the vacation home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

A spokesperson for Bellows did not respond to follow-up questions about the decision to hold a design contest or the deadline for the new designs.

Bellows is expected to announce additional details in Augusta on Friday.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story