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Maine opens contest to design a new state flag based on an old classic

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Mainers are going to decide in November whether to adopt a new flag, but the state needs to settle on a design first.
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FILE - Mississippi National Day of Prayer attendees raise a “Appeal to Heaven” flag in lieu of the Mississippi State flag at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, May 3, 2018. Voters in Maine are going to decide in November 2024, whether to adopt a new flag, but the state needs to settle on a design first. The process was without controversy until publicity surrounding a similar-looking flag flown at the vacation home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, file)

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Mainers are going to decide in November whether to adopt a new flag, but the state needs to settle on a design first.

Anyone can submit a design proposal as long as it's based on the state's original flag, which featured a simple pine tree and blue star against an off-white background. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced the flag contest Friday. The deadline is July 19.

A modern version of that flag used from 1901 to 1909 took the state by storm during the Maine's bicentennial in 2020, and has appeared on hats, sweatshirts and soon license plates. This popularity played a role in lawmakers' approval of a bill last year to let Mainers vote on replacing the current flag, which features the state's official seal, a lumberjack, a sailor and the state's motto, Dirigo. That's Latin for “I lead,” a reference to the north star.

The design process was without controversy until news reports of a similar-looking flag flown at the vacation home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. The flag featuring a pine tree and the words “AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN” dates to the Revolutionary War, but has recently been associated with the Christian nationalist movement and the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Bellows brushed aside a reporter's question about the flags' similarities at a news conference. “This is a debate delightfully free of partisan politics, and one that every Maine voter can weigh in on at the ballot box this fall,” she said in a statement.

The law requires Bellows to present the final design. “This duty bestowed upon me by the Legislature 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 Associated Press