Maine Seeks Designs for a New State Flag

Maine Seeks Designs for a New State Flag

Anyone with an idea for how the Maine state flag should look has a month to submit a design idea, though the contest rules limit just how much of a creative free-for-all will be allowed.

Maine lawmakers agreed last year to let voters decide if they want to adopt a new state flag design that would be more distinctive than the current one, which has a blue background and the state seal, a man standing on each side of a shield that shows a moose resting under a pine tree.

The state seal in the middle of the blue background combination is similar to the look of flags in at least a dozen other states.

The Maine secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, announced on Friday a contest to determine which design would be used as the model ahead of a November referendum on a new flag.

Ms. Bellows said in a statement that choosing the design “is not a job I can do alone.”

“That’s why today I invite every Mainer to consider submitting a design for consideration,” she said. The design rules allow submissions to come from outside of Maine.

Governments have let the public create and vote on designs for civic symbols, including birds, license plates and flags.

In 2022, Ulster County, N.Y., adopted an “I voted” sticker that featured a pink and turquoise creature with a bloodshot stare after it was submitted by a teenager in a contest.

The Maine flag contest does not invite such a wide spectrum of artistic expression, however.

The design brief provides strict criteria, including that the background of the flag must be colored “buff,” a light yellowish brown, and the flag should be “so simple that a child can draw it from memory.”

It must also have a pine tree in the center and a blue five-pointed North Star in the upper corner, the brief said.

An advisory committee will select five designs from the submissions pool to present to Ms. Bellows, who will choose a design to serve as a model for the new state flag ahead of the November election.

The contest rules specify that the design has to be an original work and not generated by artificial intelligence. The contest winner will not be compensated and the design can be modified by the secretary of state.

There are no age minimums for who can create the design but entries created by children and teenagers under 18 must be submitted by a parent or legal guardian.

Submissions are due by 5 p.m. on July 19.

Maine residents and lawmakers have for years debated changing the flag, which employs a common state flag design. Two states that previously used that design, Utah and Minnesota, officially adopted more distinctive flags this year.

Maine lawmakers decided last year to let residents vote on replacing the current flag with a design similar to the look of Maine’s first state flag, which was used from 1901 to 1909.

In recent months, the flag debate in Maine has been charged by revelations about the display of flags with political connotations at properties belonging to Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The 1901 Maine flag has a pine tree in the center, which makes it resemble the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which was used during the Revolutionary War but has in recent years been tied to a push to remake the American government in Christian terms. The “Appeal to Heaven” flag was carried by rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The New York Times revealed last month that the “Appeal to Heaven” flag was flown outside Justice Alito’s vacation house in New Jersey last summer. Justice Alito said in a letter to lawmakers that he was aware of the flag but he was not familiar with the flag’s meaning and that it had been raised by his wife, Martha-Ann Alito.

Ms. Bellows told The Portland Press Herald that her office had received questions after The Times report on Justice Alito, but the debate does not change the flag voting plans.

“Whatever process and design we put forward will be based on Maine history,” she said.

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