View Full Version : Independent voters could tip Maine caucus results

01-24-2008, 02:43 PM
By Herb Perry

January 23, 2008 6:00 AM
YORK, Maine — Overflowing publicity from New Hampshire's primary and each party's close presidential races have piqued local voters' interest in Maine's presidential caucuses.

And recent local and statewide figures indicate independent voters are growing in number with a potentially significant affect on the party caucuses.

"We're getting a lot of people inquiring," York Town Clerk Mary-Anne Szeniawski said. "We've been doing a tremendous amount of explaining."

Szeniawski advised residents who want to attend a caucus to check their party affiliation. Otherwise they may go to a caucus and find that they cannot participate.

Independent voters and unregistered citizens can register for the Democratic or Republican caucuses on the day each takes place. York Republicans will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 at Coastal Ridge Elementary School. York Democrats will meet at 10 a.m. on Feb. 2.

Growing independent movement

"Over the past year we've had a lot of people withdrawing their party enrollment and becoming what I would call 'unenrolled,'" Szeniawski said. "There's less interest in party politics."

As of last Wednesday, York had 2,967 Republicans, 2,543 Democrats and 168 Green Independents, totaling 9,794 registered enrolled voters.

The salient fact, however, is that York has 4,116 unenrolled — also called independent —voters, a number larger than the three main parties. These registered voters could join a political party on the day of a caucus and affect the caucus's outcome, Szeniawski said.

York's disproportionately large number of independent voters is reflected in statewide figures. As of Jan. 15, Maine had 997,844 voters — 899,831 "active" voters and 98,013 "inactive" voters, Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said Thursday. Of the active voters, 253,319 are Republicans, 281,234 Democrats, 25,522 Green Independents and 339,756 are unenrolled.

As of Jan. 4, South Berwick had 1,222 Democrats, 1,336 Republicans, 117 Green Independents, and 1,995 unenrolled.

South Berwick Town Clerk Barbara Bennett said Friday that few residents are switching parties in anticipation of the Republican and Democratic caucuses.
"Some people are coming in to register," Bennett said. "But we've had only a couple of people come in to change parties."

On the other hand, Deputy Town Clerk Kathryn Pridham said in Kittery that "a lot" of people are switching from one major party to another, and many unenrolled voters are coming in to register for one of the major parties.