Posted by Russell Daniels on March 05, 2021 at 10:54 AM
Semi-open primaries will bring our political process in line with our values
Whenever I’m weighing decisions and votes in Augusta — or, this year, from home via Zoom with my colleagues scattered across the state — I aim to stay grounded in our community. It’s clear to me from the conversations I’ve had at doors and around town these past few years that many of us share the same values. We work hard, help our neighbors and believe that a person’s character is what matters most. We also value our civic duty to participate in the political process, turning out to vote at a rate that is the envy of the nation.
Yet currently, our political process isn’t living up to our shared values.
This year, I’m proud to co-sponsor LD 231, An Act to Establish Open Primaries. LD 231 would allow semi-open primaries, meaning unenrolled voters — often referred to as independents here in Maine — would be permitted to cast one ballot in the party primary of their choice. Republicans would not be able to vote in Democratic primaries and Democrats would not be able to vote in Republican primaries.
There is a saying that “all politics are local,” and in Hancock County, 30 percent of registered voters are unenrolled and therefore unable to participate in primary elections. These are our friends and neighbors who are registered to vote, engaged in the political process and paying for elections in which they are not permitted to participate. The status quo is not in line with our values — our electorate deserves better.
Fortunately, LD 231 will address our flawed system. Opening Maine’s primaries to unenrolled voters will improve voter access and increase voter participation. It means that our unenrolled friends will be able to more fully participate in a system for which they are already paying, without having to temporarily affiliate with a party. Unenrolled voters are no more or less informed than other voters and we would benefit from hearing from them.
Mainers are practical and appreciate common-sense solutions to problems that need not exist. Semi-open primaries aren’t cutting-edge. Nine states already allow for them, including nearby New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In fact, Maine is only one of 14 states that has completely closed primaries. For a state that values and takes pride in our voter participation, it’s clear we can do better.
Mainers want to make this change — 80 percent of Maine voters support semi-open primaries, yes, 80 percent! There are few issues with this much consensus, and I hope my colleagues in the Legislature heed the will of the people and join me in supporting LD 231. If you agree, you can help by reaching out to your state representative (if you live outside Ellsworth and Trenton) and senator and letting him or her know that you support LD 231.
Democratic Rep. Nicole Grohoski is serving her second term in the Maine House of Representatives, where she represents Ellsworth and Trenton, and serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.