Testimony: Allowing Mainers to Elect Their Constitutional Officers
Testimony in Support of LD 696: “An Act to Allow the People to Elect the State Auditor,” and LD 1307, “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Require Constitutional Officers to Be Elected by Statewide Election.”
Senator Nangle, Representative Stover, and the distinguished members of the Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on LD 696 and LD 1307.
Maine is the only state in the nation in which constitutional officers—Secretary of State, State Treasurer, and Attorney General, as well as the State Auditor—are selected by legislators. Most states have adopted a process of either gubernatorial appointment with Senate confirmation or popular election.
Unfortunately, the current system benefits entrenched insiders and the politically well-connected. Too often, personal connections with legislators—more than professional qualifications—influence the appointment of a constitutional officer. In recent years, the overwhelming majority of constitutional officers have had previous experience serving in the Legislature, suggesting that political connections—more than professional competence—influenced their appointments.
Constitutional officers are important bureaucrats with great influence on public policy, and they play a central role in ensuring that public affairs are carried out in a coherent and nonpartisan way. They should reflect the desires of the people, not those of dealmaking politicians in backrooms.
Bills like these appear in every session, drawing support from both sides of the aisle and everywhere in between. Unfortunately, none have progressed because legislators are reluctant to relinquish their power in this realm. We are pleased to see that this idea has attracted a broad array of co-sponsors including Republicans, Democrats, and an Independent.
As the Bangor Daily News editorial board wrote in December 2020, constitutional officers “are frequently former lawmakers or former candidates from whichever party has a majority in the State House at that time.…In appearance, if not in practice, these offices often seem to be a career step for whoever is most popular or best-positioned within the party that has the most seats in the Legislature.”
Maine’s antiquated system is prone to politicization and partisanship since the party that holds the majority in the Legislature decides who to appoint to these important positions. This means Maine’s governor and constitutional officers may constantly be at odds with one another, leading to brinkmanship and government dysfunction.
This is not a partisan issue; it is about whether the people should have a say in who serves as their constitutional officers and State Auditor, or whether these important positions should be chosen inside the walls of the State House. Please deem LD 696 and LD 1307 “Ought To Pass” and allow Maine people to choose their constitutional officers. Thank you for your time and consideration.