2016 Ballot Questions

On Election Day, Mainers will decide on several important (and possibly controversial) issues. There are five citizens initiatives and one bond issue on the ballot. This presentation provides the descriptions, background and yes/no arguments for all six of these questions.

Voting is your opportunity to have a say in planning for Maine’s future. Don’t miss your chance – be sure to vote.



Easy-to-Read Voter Guide for the 2016 election

We’re so excited!  It’s here!voterguide2016

The League of Women Voters of Maine Education Fund has released its ninth Easy-to-Read Voter Guide for the 2016 election.

This year’s guide covers the presidential race, both federal races for the U.S. House of Representatives, Districts 1 and 2, five statewide citizen initiative questions, and one statewide bond issue that will be decided by voters on November 8th.

As always, the guide is nonpartisan and does not endorse any candidate or party or promote any platform or position on the ballot questions.

As we have for the past eight years, we will distribute free paper copies of the guide to citizens throughout Maine. This year, we printed and are distributing 50,000 copies to libraries, adult education centers, social service agencies, colleges, and high schools across the State.

A PDF of the guide is also available to download from the LWVME website, www.lwvme.org. Information about candidates and ballot questions will also be online at Vote411.org.

Paper copies can be requested by emailing voterguide@lwvme.org or calling 207-622-0256 Ext 2quote-about-voter-guide

Please share with family and friends so we’re all ready to vote on Election Day!

Jill Ward, President
League of Women Voters of Maine Education Fund

To Caucus or Primary – that is the question

By Helen Hanlon

LD1673, An Act to Establish a Presidential Primary System

The Gang of 3 (Regina Coppens, Stephanie Philbrick, and I) listened attentively to hours of testimony before the VLA Committee. The rooms started out packed, with two camera crews and a long line of people waiting to testify. By 5:30, when the hearing ended, only a few die-hard spectators and Committee members were left. There was lots of discussion and testimony – all of the testimony is available here – but we offer some highlights from the hearing:

The bill was introduced by the main sponsor, Senator Alfond of Portland. Only a fraction of the more than 90 co-sponsors were on hand, but some were there to lend support. According to Senator Alfond, legislators heard lots of complaints after the caucuses. With record turnout across the state for both the GOP and Democratic caucuses, people waited hours in line, and some never even got to vote. In many locations, the traditional caucus format was abandoned for a hybrid system that allowed participants to cast a vote and leave. The result was angry citizens who felt disenfranchised and frustrated. In response, LD 1673 proposes to return to presidential primaries in lieu of the caucus system.

Throughout the testimony, it emerged that many of the problems were caused by poor communication and organization at the party level. Caucuses are the responsibility of the parties, not the state or municipalities, and the Democrats, Republicans, and Greens hold their own caucuses according to national party rules. They also fund the caucuses, provide training for local conveners, and handle public communications about the events. It became clear through testimony that many voters were confused by the system with some thinking that they could still vote in a presdiential primary if they skipped the caucus. Still many more didn’t understand the process and showed up too late to vote (or spent hours in line only to find out they were too late). And more were turned away because they were not registered and the municipal registrars, after staying the required time – and sometimes more – had gone for the day.

After similar issues arose in the past two presidential elections (for Democrats in 2008 and for Republicans in 2012), a bill to return to a presidential primary was proposed. It was, according to Sen. Alfond, put on hold, became a study, and ended there. Presidential primaries were held in 1996 and 2000. Prior to that, Maine traditionally had a caucus system so our current system is a return to one that older generations are familiar with.

The testimony began with co-sponsors and then proponents, so throughout the early part of the hearing speakers said a Primary System seemed to be what most voters wanted. Even some of the Committee members agreed that many voters want to show up, vote, and leave. However, Rep. Schneck (D. Bangor) said his District seemed split 50/50. Everyone agreed that waiting hours to vote was not to be tolerated. And, it was pointed out that once inside a caucus, people waited hours longer to vote and weren’t prepared (or interested) in the other business of the caucus. In Portland, the wait was up to 5 ½ hours – very difficult for younger voters (with odd work schedules) and those with children. In the North and Downeast, caucus-goers had to travel long distances to the one central location offered in their region. In Biddeford, the GOP caucus was shut down by the fire department because the facility was overcrowded. Co-sponsor Joyce Maker (Dist. 140) heard from a constituent who said that it was impossible to attend because she relies on oxygen. Between the long drive each way, waiting in line and waiting to caucus, the supply of oxygen in one bottle isn’t enough. Because of the long wait and long drive, she felt cut out of the system.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap spoke in favor of the bill …. (continued)

VLA Work Session March 2: Absentee Ballots

By Iris Levitis


LD 1539 (An Act To Expand the Early Processing of Absentee Ballots)

The VLA Committee met to discuss LD 1539, a measure the League supports and testified for in January. The use of absentee ballots continues to rise, and the time currently allowed for processing is insufficient due to the growing number. This, along with the short amount of time set aside for processing the ballots, puts an undue burden on town clerks and their staffs. Several town clerks, the Secretary of State, and Senator O’Connor (who sponsored the bill) also testified in support.

Bill summary: This bill provides that a municipality may opt to process absentee ballots as early as the 4th day before the election. It also authorizes the Secretary of State to make available high-speed tabulators for absentee ballots and to allow a municipality to bring absentee ballots to a central location for tabulating by the high-speed tabulators as long as security guidelines are properly followed

Legislative Analyst Danielle Fox opened the work session by noting that this bill was discussed in a previous work session on Jan 27th. The measure includes language also found in LD 1484 (the Secretary of State’s agency bill). That bill is currently tabled in the Senate but a second reading in the Senate would allow for removal of duplicative language.

Rep. Luchini suggested that, for now, the Committee let the two bills (1484 and 1539) stand alone. He then made a motion to pass as amended, striking the high-speed tabulator bit. Motion was seconded by Rep. Turner.

Sen. Patrick said, “Clerks have been coming to us to adjust the system for absentee ballots, and I am in support of this.” Sen. Cyrway concurred, “These extra days are needed. Security is not an issue because handling is highly prescribed. This really needs to be done, and it is so critical for them. The tabulator threw a wrench into it, so if we can get rid of that…”

Sen. Collins asked for a summary of the bill as amended, and Analyst Fox replied: Make it an emergency bill that would allow processing of absentee ballots on Friday and Saturday in addition to Monday. Removing central high-speed tabulation.

Result: OTP-A unanimous (Rep. Saucier and Sen. Cyr absent for vote)

Happy Birthday to US!

1920s_StampThe story of the League of Women Voters is a long, rich one that is intricately woven into the fabric of American history. Our nation’s history is full of people who dreamed big and acted on their beliefs. Americans speak out, agitate for change, organize and stand up for what they believe in. In their souls, Americans are activists. And at the center of activism in the U.S. is the League of Women Voters.

birthdaydonationLike our country, the League has changed with the times and met new challenges head on. At its’ core, the League of Women voters is about citizenship and the responsibilities that come with democracy. It’s not enough just to have rights. Being a citizen requires participation and the League continues to lead the way in voting rights, ethical government and environmental issues. Here in Maine, LWVME has been instrumental in passing clean elections, registering voters, safeguarding voting rights and putting Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot in 2016. We are at legislative hearings every session. We collect signatures, study the issues and lead on issues that make Maine better and stronger.

We never rest because, as one League member said long ago, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

2000sSince it was founded on February 14, 1920, the League of Women Voters has been a nonpartisan, activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. Times have changed, political administrations have come and gone, and League members cycled through the ranks, but we continue to work for the core values have made the League a trusted voice in American democracy. We still register voters, testify on voting rights issues, monitor government function and debate issues important to society.

We are women and men who believe that citizenship brings responsibilities as well as privileges. And in Maine, we can be found in towns around the state, in all political parties (and unenrolled, too), in families of all types and beliefs, and in jobs of all kinds. We are working people, retired people. We are from Maine and from away. We are the League of Women voters – and, on our birthday, we invite you to join us.

So Tell Us


What does the League of Women Voters mean to you?

We asked past and present LWVME members to talk about what the League means to them and to all of us. The responses are deeply personal because citizenship is a very personal thing. We open this question to you: tell us what the League means to you and to join us in celebrating 96 years of the League of Women Voters.


“It’s the best conversation in town. The League’s nonpartisanship is a discipline that keeps the conversation civil. It’s about the issues, not the ideology. I’ve had a chance to meet, talk to, and learn from so many well-informed people — not all of whom think exactly the same way I do. I’ve learned so much. My best colleagues are in the League. In the end, conversation leads to action. What we learn, we put into practice. We’re making democracy work better.”Ann Luther

“I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of intelligent, dedicated people I’ve met who are members of the League of Women Voters. League members are making a difference on local, state, national and even international issues. People in the League can define a problem, seek answers, create an action plan and get things done. Being a League Member is time well spent—and the people are great, too.” Barbara McDade

When I first joined the League (a long time ago) it became my career path providing intellectual stimulation, organizational development training, a network of friends, and a passionate commitment to social justice and civic engagement. Over the years since the League has provided a steady supply of interesting ideas to address and a welcoming place to land when I moved from one state to another. What I love most is the curious, straight-talking, committed, and interesting people I have met along the way. And an affiliation with an organization I trust, admire and seek to serve.”Anne Schink

“I deeply believe that participating in the political process of selecting government leaders and voicing our opinions about public policies makes for stronger communities. It also enables us to feel better about ourselves. I was the local president in Bangor, the state president and served on the national board for two terms – one term as secretary/treasurer. My interest was in the voter service programs, and I registered lots of voters, produced forums and candidate nights. I produced the first statewide debates for the U.S. Senatorial and Maine Gubernatorial races. MPBN broadcasted them live from the Bangor Civic Center with about 500 people in attendance. The LWV offered me the platform to develop my leadership skills. I wouldn’t be a professional fundraiser today if it weren’t for my LWV leadership experience.”Penny Harris





Everything You Need to Know About Maine’s Caucus System


By Barbara Kaufman

How Do Mainers Choose Presidential Candidates?

Maine uses a municipal caucus system to select national Presidential candidates. Caucuses are held by the political parties in towns and cities around the state. Caucus-goers select delegates who are pledged to support a specific presidential candidate at each qualified party’s state convention. For this election cycle, the qualified parties are the Maine Democratic, Green and Republican Parties. These parties must hold their conventions before August 1 this year.

Caucus goers must be registered voters who are also enrolled in the party whose caucus they wish to attend. You can register to vote at your local municipal offices.

If you are unenrolled in a party or unregistered, you can register and enroll up to and including on caucus day. If you are already registered but wish to permanently or temporarily switch your party enrollment so that you can attend a specific caucus, you must do so 15 days prior to that caucus. If you then wish to change enrollment, you must wait until 3 months after the initial change to switch party affiliation again.  NOTE: In the general election you must be a registered voter (and can register at the polls) but you do not need to be enrolled in a party.

Search http://www.maine.gov/local/ to find your Town Clerk’s address for voter registration and local election information.

If you want a brief overview of how different states select presidential nominees, please see: http://lwv.org/blog/everything-you-need-know-about-presidential-primaries

Dates to remember

March 1, 2016: Super Tuesday: Several states hold their primaries or caucuses. For a look at 2016 election dates, click on the Real Clear Politics calendar: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/elections/election_dates/

March 5, 2016: Maine Republican Caucuses.  For more information:


March 6, 2016: Maine Democratic Caucuses.  For more information: http://www.mainedems.org/page/2016-caucus-and-convention

TBD: Maine Green Party Caucuses in each county:  http://www.mainegreens.org/caucus

November 8, 2016: Election Day

History of Presidential Primaries and Caucuses in Maine
(see http://www.lwvme.org/elections.html)

Prior to 1995, Maine had a law allowing qualified political parties the option to hold a Presidential Primary Election after January 1st of the presidential election year. However, the decision process was complex and parties traditionally indicated their preference for presidential candidates at the biennial municipal caucuses. In 1995, the Maine Legislature replaced the Presidential Primary law with a new Presidential Preference Primary law, simplifying the process considerably. In both 1996 and 2000, the major qualified political parties (Democratic and Republican) opted to hold Presidential Preference Primaries. In 2003, the Maine Legislature repealed the Presidential Preference Primary law. Therefore, in 2004 and subsequent election years, the parties have reverted to the biennial municipal caucuses to indicate their support for presidential candidates.

Municipal Caucuses
(see http://www.lwvme.org/elections.html)

The major political parties hold biennial municipal caucuses. In order to be designated a “qualified party,” the party must hold biennial municipal caucuses before March 20 in at least one municipality in 14 of the 16 counties in the State during general election years. At this time, the three qualified parties are the Maine Democratic Party, the Maine Green Independent Party, and the Maine Republican Party. Among the most important purposes of the caucus are the following:

  • Electing delegates to the party’s state convention
  • Electing municipal party officers.

The procedures for conducting the municipal caucus are largely determined by the caucus itself and by party rules. The political party also determines the number of state convention delegates to which a municipality is entitled.

Notice of the municipal caucus is to be published as follows:

  • Published in a local newspaper between 3 and 7 days before the caucusOR
  • Posted in a public place in each voting district of the municipality seven days before the caucus.

The chairman or a majority of the members of a municipal committee of the party may call municipal caucuses. If there is no municipal committee in your town, any resident voter enrolled in a party may call a caucus for the purpose of electing the municipal committee and for conducting other business following party rules.

If you have a question about your party’s caucus in your municipality, contact state party officials.

State and National Conventions
see http://www.lwvme.org/elections.html)

Each qualified party must hold a state convention between March 1 and August 1 during general election years, that is, every two years in the even-numbered years. Among the most important purposes of the state convention are the following:

  • Adopting a platform for the next general election
  • Electing state and county officers
  • Electing delegates to the national party conventions
  • Nominating presidential electors.

Delegates to the national nominating convention are typically chosen based on the results of the caucuses in the state and are pledged to support a specific candidate. Although the party nominee is widely known long before the national convention actually takes place, the convention is the official mechanism by which a party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates are chosen.