Bills Would Bring Big Changes To Maine's Presidential Election Process

Jun 20, 2019

Two big changes could shake up Maine's election process in the 2020 presidential race, following key votes by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

One proposal approved by the House and Senate - and now funded by the Legislature's budget committee - would swap Maine's caucus system for a presidential primary.

The bill was enacted Wednesday, and Gov. Janet Mills now has 10 days, excluding Sunday, to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.

The change stems from frustration during the 2016 caucuses, resulting in long lines and confusion for Democratic and Republican voters.

A second bill would institute Maine's landmark ranked-choice voting system in both presidential primaries and the general election.

The system is already in place for Maine congressional contests and allows voters to rank the candidates - rankings that are then used to calculate a majority winner.

Using ranked-choice could also alleviate concerns about a new rule adopted by the Democratic National Committee that bars delegates from being awarded to candidates receiving less than 15 percent of the vote - a high likelihood in a traditional plurality election with a current field of two dozen Democratic presidential candidates.

The two proposals received votes largely along party lines. But lawmakers adjourned Wednesday before taking final action on the ranked-choice bill.  That means it gets carried over until the next session, which could be next year or perhaps later this year. The Legislature could also deal with the bill on so-called "veto day," which is when lawmakers return shortly after adjournment to vote on any gubernatorial vetoes.

Originally published June 19, 2019 at 12:37 p.m. ET.

Updated June 20, 2019 at 7:24 a.m. ET.