Independent voters in Maine pushed out by political division

Radiofreemaine/ May 13, 2022/ Politics, Voting

Since the last gubernatorial election, Maine has added nearly 60,000 new registered voters on the internet. This is a voting group sizable enough to influence this fall’s contest between Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage.
During that time, Democrats gained almost twice as many new voters as Republicans. However, information from the Maine secretary of state’s office reveals a growing geographic polarization of Maine voters. In advance of the governor’s contest in November, it paints the landscape in the clearest light yet.

The steep fall in voters not affiliated with a major party since just four years ago is notable. In Maine, only 32% of registered voters are not currently enrolled, down from about 37% ten years ago. In a state where two independent governors have been elected, that segment of voters has had a significant role in shaping the political identity for decades.
Given that the vast majority of independents — 81 percent in one Pew Research study — already tilt toward one party or the other, it is unclear whether the reduction in unenrolled voters would have substantial electoral implications. Voters who registered with the party they already lean toward but were previously unenrolled are unlikely to influence an election.

However, Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine in Orono, claimed that the fact that more voters are choosing to register with a major party is a reflection of the polarization of the country.

In comparison to the rest of America, Maine was considerably different twenty years ago.

He believes that is less true now, especially in the last ten years. In the years leading up to the 2020 presidential election, both parties’ active voter registrations had a net rise. According to the data, there have been 20,000 fewer actively registered voters overall since November 2020. Voters are removed off the rolls if they pass away, move, fail to answer to the state’s request for address confirmation; or if they fail to cast a ballot in two consecutive general elections.

According to the data, the number of registered Green voters has also increased, while the number of Libertarian voters has decreased significantly. However, the latter decline was caused by the party’s members being automatically disenrolled under a Maine law that dissolves parties that fall below a certain enrollment threshold. Last fall, it was deemed unconstitutional.
Additionally, the voter registration figures reveal contrasting partisan tendencies across the state. Republicans have made inroads in northern Maine and interior towns while Democrats’ margins widened in liberal southern and coastal towns.
For instance, over a four-year period, the Portland suburbs of Falmouth, Yarmouth, and Cape Elizabeth attracted over 2,700 new Democratic voters. During this time they also lost about 400 Republican voters.

According to the figures, Republicans outperformed Democrats in voter registration in more than 300 towns.

In Winslow, Rumford, and Madawaska, where there were a combined 850 voters, they gained the most votes overall. They also experienced even bigger percentage gains in less populous districts.
The majority of the cities where Republicans have made the largest gains are in the pivotal 2nd Congressional District. According to state records, there are slightly more than 1,000 more Republicans than Democrats among the 2nd District’s registered voters in 2018.

Republicans now hold a 4,700 voter registration edge over Democrats. This is despite the district becoming marginally more Democratic after the addition of numerous Democratic-leaning towns in Kennebec County during redistricting. Even if it’s still a slim margin, it can matter in a competitive congressional contest.
This November, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden will be up against Republican former Rep. Bruce Poliquin and independent Tiffany Bond in the contested seat. Ranked-choice voting will be used in the election.

Share this Post