Under the provisions of the original bill, the state party central committees would have the ability to opt into the state-funded primary -- as opposed to the caucus system that has been in place for much of the post-reform era. And even if just one party did so -- whether in scenarios where both major parties have competitive nomination races or just one did -- the state would have been on the hook for the expenses behind the primary election. As long as the date was not before January 1 of the election year, the state party would be free to set the date of the contest on a date of its choosing. If both parties were to have competitive nominations, the two parties would have to agree on a date. In the event that the parties could not come to an agreement on the date or if one or both simply failed to certify a date with the secretary of state, the primary would be set for one week after the New Hampshire primary (whenever it was -- presumably if it was not prior to January 1).
[Speaking of New Hampshire, if any party opted into the primary as outlined above their delegate allocation process would be guided by a proportional method of allocation for any candidate receiving 10% or more of the vote in the primary. ...just like in New Hampshire.]
But that is the original bill.
It has subsequently been amended to allow for further consideration of the state's options. The amended bill charges the Joint Committee on Veteran and Legal Affairs to explore the options available for the presidential nomination process in Maine (sometime in the July 1-October 15, 2012 window) and produce legislation to be introduced and considered during the first session of the 126th Maine legislature. The amended bill easily passed the state Senate (31-4) but found more resistance in the state House. The 85-57 vote to pass the bill had a more Democratic and Republican ayes than nays but there were more Republicans (34) voting against than Democrats (23) and more Democrats (45) voting for than Republicans (40). Both parties were split over the legislation in the House.
[The bill's fiscal report indicates that a 2006 study found a presidential primary election would cost the state $1 million. That figure and some additional administrative costs is being used as the price tag in this legislation.]
Maine has abandoned the caucus before. The state had a primary option codified and in place for the 1996-2000 presidential nomination cycles before returning to the caucus system in 2004.
Thanks to Jim Fossell for passing along news of this bill to FHQ.
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