Sen. Gratwick bill would broader pool of election clerks

Posted: May 12, 2017 | Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, would allow people outside the two major political parties to participate as election clerks.

The bill — LD 813, “An Act to Amend the Laws Governing the Political Representation of Election Clerks” — received a public hearing before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday.

Current law requires that election clerks be chosen from the two major parties and that neither major party, either Democrat or Republican, outnumbers the other by more than one. The amended version of the bill presented by Sen. Gratwick would preserve that party balance, while stipulating that at least half of the total number of clerks be from one of the two major parties, and allowing for additional slots to be filled by members of other parties or unenrolled voters.

“The current division of election clerks reflects an earlier time when most voters belonged to one of two major political parties,” said Gratwick. “Demographics have changed, yet members of other small parties or unenrolled voters are still unable to serve despite the fact that they represent a growing number of voters.”

Gratwick brought the bill at the request of Lisa Goodwin, the Bangor City Clerk, and the Maine Clerk’s Association. Goodwin spoke to the difficulty of finding clerks of each party in certain geographic areas.

“When I served as clerk in Lincoln, Democrats were hard to come by. In Bangor, I struggle to get Republicans to serve. In both communities, there is a large number of voters who do not affiliate with any party,” said Goodwin. “The proposed amendment would clarify the law while at the same time opening up participation in the process to all registered voters.”

Geoff Herman also submitted testimony in favor of the measure on behalf of Maine Municipal Association.

LD 813 faces further action in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and votes in the House and Senate.