AUGUSTA, Maine — The Secretary of State’s Office clarified on Monday that Maine voters have roughly one more week — until close of business on Monday, May 24 — to change party affiliation in order to participate in another party’s primary on June 8.
An incorrect date in a voter guide posted on the Secretary of State’s website was causing some confusion about the deadline for registered voters interested in changing parties. The Maine Voter Guide site was updated with the correct date Monday afternoon.
The May 24 deadline only applies to registered voters who now are enrolled as a Democrat, Republican or Green Independent but want to participate in one of the other major party’s primaries on June 8.
To change affiliation, voters must fill out an enrollment application with their municipal clerk.
Unaffiliated or unenrolled voters as well as people not yet registered to vote in Maine can join one of the three officially recognized parties any time, including on the day of the primary. And unenrolled Mainers can still cast votes in the nonpartisan issues on the ballot, including several bond bills and a referendum on last year’s tax reform legislation.
Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state with the Bureau of Corporation, Elections and Commissions, said the error may have been due to the fact that Memorial Day occurs so late in the month this year.v
Maine law requires voters wanting to change parties to do so no less than 15 days before an election to prevent rampant “party flipping,” Flynn said.
Additionally, voters must have been a member of their current party for at least three months before they can change to participate in another party primary.
While the 11 Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are busy courting their respective party members, they are also targeting the legions of unenrolled voters who are free to affiliate with a party moments before entering the voting booth on primary day.
As of April 6, independents remained the largest block in Maine with 365,690 unenrolled voters, or 37.5 percent of all active voters. Slightly less than one-third of Maine voters (32.6 percent) — or 317,977 people — were registered Democrats, while the Maine Republican Party claimed 259,502 registered members, or 26.6 percent of total voters.
There were roughly 32,500 registered Green Independents in Maine as of April 6.
Those proportions have changed slightly since last November’s election, when the gay marriage repeal dominated the ballot, and even more since the November 2008 presidential election.
The number of registered Democrats in Maine has slipped 0.9 percent since last November and by 1.4 percent since November 2008. Republican registrations fared slightly better since last November — declining by roughly 0.6 percent — but have fallen by 1.7 percent since November 2008.
Maine’s contingent of unenrolled voters fell by 0.7 percent between November 2009 and April 2010 but increased by 0.7 percent between November 2010 and last month. Green Independents saw the biggest jump at 4 percent from November 2008 to April 2010, but that figure represents an increase of only 1,236 voters.
Part of those changes can be attributed to the fact that the number of “active” registered voters in Maine has fallen slightly.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Monday that unenrolled voters have typically been the fastest-growing voting block in Maine while Democratic and Republican registrations tend to “ebb and flow” with the prevailing political tides. But Dunlap acknowledged that deciphering or predicting the changes can be challenging.
“I don’t know why they call it political science because it looks like alchemy to me,” Dunlap said with a laugh.
However, Dunlap said he expects to see a larger turnout this year than during typical primaries.
“The fact that it’s a gubernatorial election year and you have hotly contested primaries will boost turn out,” Dunlap said.