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Political Brew: Open primaries, taxing vacation homes, and guns in polling places

Our analysts this week are former Democratic state senator and mayor of Portland Ethan Strimling, and former Republican state senator Phil Harriman.

MAINE, USA — Maine lawmakers are considering creating an "open primary" system that would allow unenrolled voters to cast a ballot in any party's primary, but would not allow voters registered in a party to cross over and vote in another party's primary.

Our NEWS CENTER Maine political analysts say the change is unnecessary because voters can register as a Democrat or a Republican on election day, and then switch back to unenrolled 90 days later if they wish.

Phil Harriman says "it's important to register because the parties both have distinct philosophies about the role of government in our lives, and if you want to support a candidate's nomination within his or her own Republican or Democrat party, go join the party and be part of that process."

And Ethan Strimling feels there are better ways to increase voter participation such as expanding ranked-choice voting to races for governor and having 30 days of early voting in each cycle.

In an effort to provide more resources for affordable housing, lawmakers are debating a proposal to put additional fees on wealthier people who own vacation homes here-- but who spend less than 180 days actually living in those homes.

Strimling says this is a good way to address the affordable housing shortage by raising revenues, and it might "incentivize some folks to become permanent residents."

Harriman disagrees, saying "This is going to send yet another message of Maine's inhospitality to people who choose to have a vacation home here."

He adds, "They're paying property taxes already."

There is a proposal before the legislature to allow towns and cities to bar people from bringing firearms into polling places.

Harriman says he doesn't know of any instance where this has been a problem in Maine.

But Strimling argues "At the local level we can regulate speed limits, we can regulate what time bars close, we can regulate the pesticides on your lawn. But we cannot regulate whether or not people can bring an AK-47 into a polling place. It's absurd."

Strimling and Harriman also discuss the proposal to create a new standalone agency to oversee child protective services, calls for changes to the U.S. Supreme Court, such as expanding the number of justices, and President Biden's new timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Weekend Morning Report.