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Lawmakers Vote Along Party Lines Over Effort To Replace Maine's Presidential Caucuses With Primaries

The effort to replace Maine's presidential caucuses with a primary system next year could be in trouble, following a party line vote by the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. Democratic lawmakers voted to approve the bill, but Republicans opposed it.

The partisan split is significant because Republican votes will be needed to enact the proposal when it reaches the House and Senate.

That is because the bill imposes a mandate on municipalities to pay most of the costs of implementing a primary system — and passing a mandate requires a two-thirds vote, which the Democrats don't have despite controlling the Legislature.

Maine has used a caucus system to select presidential nominees since 2004, but frustration during the 2016 presidential caucuses spurred an effort to retry the state's brief experiment with presidential primaries.

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