UPDATE 7:05 p.m. EST — Amid crowded Democratic caucus sites Sunday and a perhaps record voter turnout, a local lawmaker in Maine is expected to submit a bill to bring primaries to the state, according to report from WCSH in Portland. State Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond is expected to submit the after-deadline bill Monday.
“Today, we saw an unprecedented turnout of voters in Portland who are passionate, energetic and fired up to participate in our democratic process,” said Sen. Alfond, according to WCSH. “Maine’s voter turnout has always been a point of pride, and while local party officials were prepared for big crowds at the local caucus, the awe-inspiring turnout meant too many had to wait in long lines to make their voices heard. We need to have a conversation, once again, about the best way to nominate our presidential candidates, and ensure the process is easy and accessible to all.”
UPDATE 6:35 p.m. EST — The mayor of Portland, Maine, Ethan Strimling, tweeted that unofficial results in a local precinct showed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders holding a significant lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Portland is the state's largest city.
362-143 for Bernie in Precinct 4-1 in Portland. Unofficial.
— Ethan Strimling (@mayorstrim) March 6, 2016
UPDATE 5:55 p.m. EST — Videos and photos of long lines have surfaced Sunday, apparently showing just how high the turnout has been at the Maine caucuses in the Democratic nominating contest between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. WCSH in Portland reported that a turnout record from 2008 could possibly be broken.
The chairman of the state's Democratic party said "he wouldn't be surprised if more than 50,000 people caucused today. That would break 2008 record of 45,000," tweeted reporter Grady Trimble from the station.
Chairman of @MaineDems tells me he wouldn't be surprised if more than 50,000 people caucused today. That would break 2008 record of 45,000.
— Grady Trimble (@Grady_Trimble) March 6, 2016
— patrick (@patrickmustdie) March 6, 2016
Elizabeth Fahan waited 4 hrs to vote in Portland. Says she saw a lot of people leave before casting their ballot. pic.twitter.com/eW2kZf01pE
— WCSH 6 (@WCSH6) March 6, 2016
Voters in Maine Sunday were set to decide on a candidate in the state’s Democratic caucus. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were fighting for the state’s 30 delegates, counting its five super delegates.
The story so far in the state’s nomination contest has been the large turnout. The Maine Democratic party called it an “extraordinary turnout,” as reports of long lines at nomination sites poured in through social media. To help ease the crush of voters, the party allowed for paper ballots to be filled out instead of the traditional town hall type caucus.
“It’s an extraordinary turnout. We are so excited that so many people want to participate in this process,” Maine Democratic Party chairman Phil Bartlett told the Portland Press Herald. “We are committed to making sure that any Democrat in line by 2 o’clock will have an opportunity to vote or cast their ballot in the caucus.”
Hearing reports of huge turnout in the Maine Democratic caucus, with "unbelievable" line in Portland.
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) March 6, 2016
— Japhet (@Phitter) March 6, 2016
The Atlantic hypothesized Maine would go well for Sanders, since it fit the mold of past contests that had gone well for the candidate.
“This Democratic caucus, though, is likelier to confirm well-established trends than to predict future races. It’s the sort of state where Bernie Sanders has fared well — it holds a caucus, rewarding enthusiasm and organization; the state is 95 percent white; and it’s close to Sanders’s own state of Vermont,” wrote Yoni Appelbaum, a politics editor at the magazine. A few different anecdotal reports of tallies from Maine had Sanders ahead at local caucus sites.
The relatively small number of delegates up for grabs in Maine’s caucus, which ends at 8 p.m. EST, might not have a huge effect on the race for the nomination. The candidates instead largely will focus on the debate scheduled for Sunday night in Flint, Michigan. That state holds its primaries Tuesday. Sanders and Clinton are scheduled to face off in the town struck by a water crisis in an event to be broadcast by CNN.
Clinton holds a 1,121 to 481 lead in delegates over Sanders, but much of the gap is because of superdelegates who can change their allegiance.