Speaker Fecteau named finalist in national Ideas Challenge

Work on voting accessibility is recognized as one of the most innovative/impactful state or local policy solutions for healing our democracy and rebuilding community


Washington, DC – The NewDEAL announced today that Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau’s (D-Biddeford) efforts to enhance access to at-home voting have made him a finalist in the 2021 Ideas Challenge – a competition among rising and innovative state and local policymakers to propose the most effective solutions on an array of issues. Policy experts vote for the proposals that best improve Americans’ economic well-being and overall quality of life, and that make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs. 

After evaluation by a diverse panel of judges (see list below), Fecteau’s Enhancing Access to the At-Home Ballot Box idea is a finalist among submissions for “healing our democracy and rebuilding community,” which includes ideas aimed at promoting the right to vote, engaging people in civic society, and healing divisions in our society, especially by addressing systemic inequality. His idea creates an ongoing absentee voting status for people over the age of 65 and people with disabilities. These individuals will be able to request their absentee ballot once and from that point forward they would automatically receive an absentee ballot for every election (More finalists are listed below.) 

“State and local leaders face enormous challenges as they work on the frontlines to rebuild from a persistent pandemic, close the long-standing inequities highlighted by COVID-19, and ensure our communities emerge with more economic opportunity and a stronger democracy for everyone,” said NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan. “The Ideas Challenge shows how a group of innovative state and local officials are rising to the occasion of finding solutions. Speaker Fecteau and his fellow finalists have made proposals that, together, set an important governing agenda to help our nation make good on the promise to build back better.”

The Challenge was open to the 178 members of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), an organization that supports state and local pro-growth progressive elected officials through the exchange of ideas and engagement with other top public, private, and non-profit sector officials. U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE), U.S. Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), and Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of the group.

The five winners of the Ideas Challenge will be announced on Thursday, November 18, at the eleventh annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference in Washington.

In its fifth edition, this year’s competition takes place in the context of one of the most challenging times to be a state or local elected official as communities navigate a host of issues related to the ongoing pandemic while aiming to rebuild in a way that improves opportunities and quality of life compared to before this crisis. 

NewDEALers are leading the response to COVID-19 and other big challenges throughout the nation, including by strengthening our democracy. The Ideas Challenge recognizes that these leaders, who represent diverse communities from urban centers to rural towns and in red, blue, and purple areas, have powerful messages, experiences, and proposals that must be heard.  

“I am thrilled to be named a finalist and to be included in this group of talented leaders across the country,” said Fecteau. “We can’t wait for political rhetoric to solve our problems, and that’s why these solutions proposed by state and local leaders across the country are so important. By building on what we have learned from best practices, our initiative to improve access to the ballot box by enhancing our state’s absentee ballot system takes concrete steps toward enhancing voter accessibility. I’m excited to have the chance to share it as a template that can be replicated by NewDEALers and others across the country.”  

Winners for this year’s Ideas Challenge were selected in the following categories:

  • Responding to Immediate Post-Pandemic Needs & Building a Stronger Safety Net with ideas to help address Americans’ short-term financial instability, joblessness, housing insecurity, and other needs, while also reimagining safety net systems to better meet Americans’ needs now and beyond the pandemic;
  • Rebuilding Jobs and the Economy, with ideas that help us rebound from the lows of the pandemic, get Americans working for pay that allows for a better quality of life, and address inequities;
  • Expanding Access to Education, with opportunities at every level — from early childhood to post-secondary — to put students on a pathway to success in college and career and, ultimately, making the most of their abilities;
  • Securing our Communities and our Planet with policies for states, cities, and regions to address climate change with cleaner and more resilient power, transportation, and infrastructure;
  • Healing our Democracy and Rebuilding Community by promoting the right to vote and access to do so, engaging people in civic society, and healing divisions in our society, especially by addressing systemic inequality.

Submissions to the New Ideas Challenge were evaluated by seven judges:

  1. U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene, Chair, New Democrat Coalition 
  2. Elizabeth Fairchild, Executive Director, Business Forward
  3. Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for the Climate and Energy Program, Third Way
  4. Zachary Markovits, Managing Director of What Works Cities, Results for America
  5. Nelson Reyneri Jr., Chair-Elect, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  6. Cathilea Robinett, CEO, e.Republic
  7. Desiree Tims, President and CEO, Innovations Ohio

2021 New Ideas Challenge Finalists in Healing our Democracy and Rebuilding Community Category:

  1. Enhancing Access to the At-Home Ballot Box – House Speaker Ryan Fecteau (Biddeford, ME)
  2. Expanding Access to the Ballot Box – Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (Las Vegas, NV) 
  3. New Standards for Police Use of Force – Councilmember Will Jawando (Montgomery County, MD)
  4. Justice for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crimes and Human Trafficking – State Representative Tram Nguyen (Andover, MA)
  5. Civics Education – Middle School through College – State Senator Troy Singleton (Moorestown, NJ)


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