STATEWIDE – Next Tuesday is Super Tuesday as far as presidential primaries are concerned. In fact, Maine joins 13 states plus American Samoa in holding presidential primaries that day.
But what does a presidential primary mean for Maine voters?
The last time Maine held a presidential primary was 20 years ago, in March 2000
Since then, Maine’s political parties have opted to select presidential delegates at caucuses.
So, why the change from a caucus to a primary?
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said some people believed Maine’s caucuses were being held too late in the year to get any national attention.
“The feeling was that Maine was not relevant in the national discussion about the nominations of candidates for president of the United States because, by the time you got to June, the question was pretty much decided,” Dunlap said.
Still, Dunlap said, the conversation about creating a presidential primary in Maine didn’t really gain traction until 2019.
“Then complaints began to mount from voters — not from the political people — from the voters about the inconvenience of a caucus. You know, you just don’t go and drop a ballot in a box. You have to go to a high school cafeteria or a grange hall. And you’d be there for half the day,” he said.
Maine Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Marra said she welcomes the primary as a chance for more Democrats to get involved.
She said the most critical race this year for Mainers is the Democratic party’s effort to remove Republican Susan Collins from the U.S. Senate.
“What I want to make sure of is that they understand that while having a Democratic president is of the utmost importance it’s only half the job is getting done if we don’t have a majority in the senate. And the road to getting a majority in the senate runs straight through Maine,” Marra said.
Although President Donald Trump is the only Republican on the ballot, Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said having a large voter turnout Tuesday would be a matter of pride.
“We want to outdo New Hampshire. We’re very competitive with our counterparts down there. We want to outdo New Hampshire, so let’s get every Republican to the polls and vote for President Trump,” he said.
In light of the trouble Iowa had with its caucus this year, Marra said she is happy to see the state election professionals in charge of Maine’s elections.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher than they are this year. So we want to make sure that we get everything right so that everyone has an easy voting experience,” she said.
Dunlap said ranked-choice voting will not be used in the May or June elections.
“But we will use it in November, pending an application by the Maine Republican Party for a people’s veto of ranked-choice voting for the presidential election,” he said.
The Republican office in Augusta is filled with petitions waiting for signatures to overturn ranked-choice voting. But for now, Savage said he is focused on getting out the vote for Tuesday’s primary.
“We really want everybody to go out and vote in this primary to show the strength of President Trump’s support and really deliver a strong victory for him,” he said.
The local caucuses will still be part of the political process for organized parties. The Republicans have held caucuses on various dates throughout the state, while Democrats in Maine caucus on March 8.
“You know, for everyone who has concerns about the Democratic party., who feels that the maybe the Democratic Party isn’t representing them, you need to go to your caucus because that’s where party business happens,” Marra said.
Tuesday’s primary is a closed primary, meaning you have to be registered as a Democrat or a Republican and can only vote for one of that party’s candidates.
But as long as you’re a registered voter, you can cast a ballot on the referendum question.
“There is something there for every registered voter. Because we do have the people’s veto on the vaccination legislation, the mandatory vaccination bill that will be there for an up or down vote on March 3,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap and Savage agree Maine’s presidential primary may live or die at the whim of the state legislature:
“So the legislature will have a chance to take a look at this. They may most closely examine turnout. Say turnout is 5 percent, they may say the expense isn’t worth it, we should go back to a caucus or go back to a June primary,” Dunlap said.
Savage said, “If the Democrats continue to control things they will just keep changing things to try to get the result they want.”
Polls across the state will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Super Tuesday.