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Maine Eased New Party Qualification Last Year

This is old news, but B.A.N. just found out. In 2013, the Maine legislature passed LD 504, which eases one method by which parties become ballot-qualified in Maine. Ever since 1976, Maine had had an extremely difficult petition procedure for a group to tranform itself into a qualified party. It required the signatures of 5% of the last gubernatorial vote, and furthermore, all the signers had to be either registered independents, or members of the group that was trying to qualify.

The 2013 bill eliminated the petition, and instead, provided that a group can become a qualified party by persuading at least 5,000 voters to register as members of that group. The bill was signed into law on May 24, 2013. The bill was sponsored by Senator John Tuttle (D-Sanford).

The old 5% petition was so difficult, it had been used successfully only twice, by the Reform Party in 1995, and by Americans Elect in 2011. Probably the impetus for LD 504 was that it was a great deal of work for Maine election officials to check the Americans Elect petition, which required 28,639 valid signatures. The new procedure requires far less work for election officials.

The now-abolished 5% petition procedure was never the only way for a group in Maine to become a qualified party. The more common method, which still exists, is for a group to use the independent petition procedure to place a candidate for Governor or President on the November ballot. This procedure permits choice of a partisan label, other than just “independent.” If the candidate polls at least 5%, the group becomes a qualified party. That is the method used by the Maine Green Party several times, starting in 1994 when the party’s gubernatorial nominee polled over 5%. Thanks to Geoff Pallay for this news.

2 Responses

  1. Curt Boyd

    Does this qualify any third parties for the ballot in Maine?

  2. Richard Winger

    The only parties already on the ballot in Maine are Republican, Democratic, and Green. If the state is asked about how many registered voters are in other parties, the state would say “zero”. The officials won’t tally the number of registered members in unqualified parties unless that group tells the state it intends to try to qualify. Anyone can write in any party on the blank line on the voter registration form that asks about party, but the state codes that as an independent. The new law has a big flaw, which says a group can only tell the state it intends to qualify during December of an even-numbered year. So no one get can started getting new registrations until December 2014. I suspect that aspect of the law is unconstitutional.

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