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Maine passes semi open primary bill

Open Primaries report on Maine offers path for future campaigns

Griffiths is the national editor of Independent Voter News, where a version of this story first appeared.

Maine has long been at the forefront of political innovation, from the way its ballots are designed, to its clean election funds program, to same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting, to implementing ranked-choice voting. The state made further changes when it adopted semi-open primaries 2021.

Open Primaries, which partnered with Open Primaries Maine to move the needle on primary reform in the state, released a new report on the multi-year process that culminated in the preliminary votes approving legislation to change the primary system. The report also offers political reform advocates ideas that can be used across different reform efforts.

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These states show bipartisan election reform is possible

Since last year's election, state legislatures have been advancing changes to voting and election rules along one of two divergent paths. Democrats are seeking expansions, like no-excuse absentee voting, while Republicans are pushing for increased security measures, like voter ID requirements.

In much of the country, one side can easily have its way without even attempting to reach across the aisle because one party controls both the legislature and the governorship. And in the 12 states with divided governments, too often there is contention rather than compromise.

Some purple states, like Kentucky and Vermont, have leaned into compromise and enacted bipartisan election reforms. But in other states, like Pennsylvania, partisan infighting is overriding any potential for collaboration.

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Maine takes bipartisan step toward open primaries

Maine has taken a big step toward making its primaries more politically inclusive.

State lawmakers voted in overwhelming bipartisan fashion on Wednesday to allow voters not registered with a major party to cast a ballot in a primary election. While the bill requires another vote in both chambers before it goes to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' desk, the previous votes indicate passage is very likely.

While many state legislatures remain divided on election reform issues, Maine and nearby Vermont presented rare examples of bipartisan collaboration this week.

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Voters in Massachusetts, including those who cast early ballots at Fenway Park, came out against ranked-choice voting in the Bay State.

Ranked elections rejected by Massachusetts, in doubt in Alaska

Proponents of ranked-choice voting have failed in their attempts to bring the alternative election system to Massachusetts and are confronting a potential defeat in Alaska as well.

The twin setbacks would amount to a big reversal of fortune for one of the darling ideas of democracy reform: Allowing voters to list candidates in order of preference, then reallocating the secondary choices of the poorer performers until one person emerges with majority support. Maine is now the only state using ranked elections almost exclusively

But a switch to so-called RCV for municipal elections was approved in two cities in California, two in Minnesota and one in Colorado. And voters in St. Louis voted to embrace another alternative election format for local primaries called approval voting.

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