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Maine Lawmakers Consider Switch To A Presidential Primary System

Maine's political parties could ditch their presidential caucuses next year if a bill establishing a primary system is passed by the state legislature.

Democrats and Republicans have used a caucus system to select presidential nominees since 2004, but frustration during the 2016 presidential caucuses has spurred an effort to retry the state's brief experiment with presidential primaries that were held in 1996 and 2000.

Democratic state Sen. Louis Luchini is sponsoring the bill, which would hold primaries in early March if there is a contest for the nomination. Luchini's bill would allow party-affiliated voters to participate, and Maine's same-day voter registration law allows voters to change or enroll in a party on election day.

Cost is an issue. The Secretary of State estimated in 2017 that holding a presidential primary would cost about $1 million with municipalities absorbing about 90 percent.

36 other states hold primaries, which often drive up voter turnout. Maine is among 14 states with a caucus system, which is considered to encourage more intense voter participation.