A bill that would give Maine voters the power to elect the state’s attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state gained bipartisan support in the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
Baldacci’s bill has gained broad bipartisan support, and a 7-3 committee vote Wednesday with opposition coming from three of Baldacci’s Democratic colleagues.
Several Republican lawmakers also voiced their support for the measure.
Maine is among a handful of states that do not hold statewide general elections for so-called “constitutional officers.” Instead, under the state constitution, the positions are elected by the Legislature. As a result, the positions are usually filled by members of the majority party. All three current constitutional officers are Democrats.
The positions are limited to four consecutive, two-year terms, but can frequently be a springboard to other elected positions, including the governor’s office. Gov. Janet Mills served three consecutive terms as attorney general prior to winning the governor’s office in 2018. She also served one term from 2009 to 2011.
But state lawmakers from both major political parties — usually when they are in the minority — have clamored at times that the positions be filled by a popular statewide vote.
According to the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library, there have been 103 attempts over the years to change how the state’s constitutional officers are elected and none has succeeded.
The bill, L.D. 874. calls for the constitutional officers to be chosen in the same manner as members of the Maine House and Senate, which means ranked-choice voting would not be used in the elections.
The secretary of state is also largely elected by a statewide vote. The position exists in only 47 states but is elected by voters in 35. In the other 12 states, including Maine, the position is filled by the Legislature or appointed by the governor.
The state treasurer is also elected in 36 of the 48 states that have the position, while the governor appoints the post in eight states and while the Legislature in four other states, including Maine elect the position.
Senator Baldacci’s bill will now move to the full Legislature for a vote.