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Maine Democrats Turn Out in High Numbers for Presidential Caucuses

PORTLAND, Maine - So many people showed up for the Democratic caucuses in Portland on Sunday that voters had to wait in line for several hours to get into Deering High School, where the caucus was held.

A crowd estimated in the thousands stood in a line that stretched across a parking lot and the roads surrounding Deering High's athletic fields. 

Among them was Clinton supporter Jean Rank, who was attending her first caucus. What did she think about the process? "I think it's pretty inefficient and it's taking a long time."

Concerns about how long it was taking to get into the high school led Portland Democratic state Sen. Justin Alfond to announce that he thinks the state should do away with caucuses and bring Maine back to a primary system.

Alfond says he says he plans to introduced an after-deadline bill tomorrow morning to do that. "We have tried to come up with audibles all day long to ensure that people can get in here, vote, be a part of the process, be a part of their future. But we can do better than this and that's why we need to have a bigger discussion this primary system of caucusing versus just a primary."

Organizers decided to limit those who could participate in the Portland caucus to people who were standing in line by 2 p.m. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling called the long wait very frustrating and absolutely unacceptable.

"It's exciting how many people are here. It's exciting that people recognize there are great candidates on the ballot," Strimling said. "But for Portland Democrats to have to wait outside in the cold for hours and hours and hours just to practice their constitutional right - it's not acceptable.  I'm going to be calling and talking with party leadership this week to make sure this never happens again."

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Strimling says he supports Alfond's idea of going back to primaries.

With all the people wanting to get into the caucus, Sunday's schedule in Portland was pushed back significantly. Caucus participants were given the option of casting their ballots and leaving rather than waiting for actual caucusing to begin.

Alfond says he was told the number of caucus participants in Portland would be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000.


Ed is a Maine native who spent his early childhood in Livermore Falls before moving to Farmington. He graduated from Mount Blue High School in 1970 before going to the University of Maine at Orono where he received his BA in speech in 1974 with a broadcast concentration. It was during that time that he first became involved with public broadcasting. He served as an intern for what was then called MPBN TV and also did volunteer work for MPBN Radio.