Mainers take our duty to participate in our democracy seriously. Maine consistently leads the pack in voter turnout, with about 78 percent of eligible Maine voters casting ballots in the 2020 election. To make sure that Maine continues to be a bastion of democracy, I made campaign and election reform one of my priorities this past legislative session. That’s why I’m proud to share that Democracy Maine awarded me a perfect score for my votes to strengthen voter rights, fix our campaign finance system, modernize our elections and make our government more accountable to Maine people. I’m excited to share some details about what this means, and about some of the great laws the Maine Legislature was able to pass this year.
Democracy Maine is a collaboration between three groups that seek to strengthen the right to vote: the Maine League of Women Voters, Mainers for Clean Elections, and Maine Students Vote. After each legislative session, Democracy Maine scores legislators based on how they voted on a handful of key bills that aimed to strengthen our democracy. This year, one of those bills was my bill to create a semi-open primary system in Maine.
As Mainers, we pride ourselves on our independence, and that’s a big reason why Maine has so many independent, or unenrolled, voters — voters who choose not to affiliate themselves with any political party. Unfortunately, our current election system shuts these hundreds of thousands of voters out of the party primaries, where races are often all but decided in overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican parts of the state. My bill will allow these unenrolled voters to participate in one party’s primary each election cycle. Young Mainers and veterans are disproportionately more likely to be unenrolled, and their key voices are currently being shut out of our political process. The bill was passed by both the House and the Senate and is currently awaiting final funding. I was glad to see Mainers and legislators from across the political spectrum come together to support this measure.
In the same spirit of increasing access to the ballot box, I was proud to support a new law that will allow Mainers to register to vote online by November 2023. This is an important step in modernizing our elections; not only will this encourage more Mainers to register to vote, it will ease the burden on our election officials so they can focus on administering safe and secure elections. I also supported a measure to create an ongoing absentee ballot program for elderly Mainers and Mainers with disabilities. These folks have a harder time getting to the polls and often vote absentee, and this process will make it easier for them to participate in our elections.
Democracy Maine included two campaign finance reform bills on their scorecard this year, both of which I was proud to support. One new law prohibits corporate contributions to candidates in state races, an important reform to make sure that our candidates and politicians are listening to the voters, not to special interests who may seek to sway their opinions with a campaign check. A second measure would have prohibited corporations that are owned by foreign governments from spending money to try and influence Maine referendums. Though this did not ultimately become law, I stood behind this effort to get special interest money out of politics. I also sponsored a law this session to reform Maine’s campaign finance rules; it will help ensure that candidates for office aren’t unfairly enriching themselves or their families by paying themselves from the PACs or ballot committees they operate.
These are just the highlights. The Legislature did a lot of good work this year to ensure Mainers are the ones making decisions in our state. But it’s important to mention that while Democracy Maine scored legislators’ votes on bills they supported, just as critical are the bad bills that were soundly defeated this session. I’m proud that we voted down several measures designed to make it more difficult for Maine people — specifically working Mainers and Mainers of color — to vote. As the Legislature gets ready for the next session beginning in January, I promise to continue prioritizing the health and strength of our democracy and the rights of Mainers to have their voices heard.
If you have any questions, if I can be of assistance to you or if you just want to connect, please reach out any time. My email is Chloe.Maxmin@legislature.maine.gov, my cell phone is (207) 200-6224, and you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/ChloeForSenate. You can also sign up to receive my regular e-newsletter at mainesenate.org