Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

by Pierce Atwood LLP
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Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.

UPCOMING REFERENDUM QUESTIONS – This week, we report on Maine ballot Question 5 regarding ranked-choice voting, and Question 6 regarding a transportation bond.  

Question 5:  Ranked-Choice Voting

Question 5 proposes to allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference in elections that involve electing a governor, members of Congress, and members of the Legislature.  If this question passes, voters would rank candidates in order of choice and if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the second choice vote of those voting for the candidate with the fewest number of votes would be distributed to the remaining candidates.  If this redistribution does not result in a majority candidate, the process would be repeated until a candidate receives more than half of the votes.  Proponents of this initiative feel ranked-choice voting will better reflect the opinions of voters.  Opponents of Question 5 believe the method is confusing and may even violate Maine’s constitution on the issue of “plurality.”

You can find information on The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting (Yes on Question 5) at http://www.rcvmaine.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/rcvmaine/.  There is no registered organization campaigning against Question 5.

Question 6:  $100 Million Transportation Bond

Question 6 proposes a $100 million bond to improve highways and bridges for facilities, equipment and property related to transportation.  If passed, the federal government would issue $137 million in matching funds.  The bulk of the money would go towards improving highways and bridges.  Proponents of the bond believe it’s necessary to maintain Maine’s roads and will add jobs to the state’s construction industry. Opponents are concerned about borrowing money at 6% interest, and about which geographical areas will see the improvements.

Editorial Board Positions on Maine’s Ballot Questions

This Election Day, November 8, Maine voters will head to the polls to vote on candidates on one side of the ballot, and five citizen-initiated referendum questions and one bond question on the other side. Over the past few weeks, the editorial boards of Maine’s largest newspapers have taken a stance on each of the questions. The questions, along with the editorial positions, are as follows:

Question 1: Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?

               Bangor Daily News: Oppose

               Kennebec Journal: Support

               Portland Press Herald: Support

Question 2: Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in Kindergarten through 12th grade public education?

               Bangor Daily News: Oppose

               Kennebec Journal: Oppose

               Portland Press Herald: Oppose

Question 3: Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?

               Bangor Daily News: Support

               Kennebec Journal: Support

               Portland Press Herald: Support

Question 4: Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage from $7.50 to $9.00 in 2017, with annual $1.00 increases up to $12.00 in 2020, and annual cost-of-living adjustments thereafter; and do you want to raise the direct minimum wage for service workers who receive tips from half the minimum wage to $5.00 in 2017, with annual $1.00 increases until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage?

               Bangor Daily News: Support

               Kennebec Journal: Support

               Portland Press Herald: Support

Question 5: Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices for candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, governor, state senator, and state representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?

               Bangor Daily News: Oppose

               Kennebec Journal: Support

               Portland Press Herald: Support

Question 6: Do you favor a $100 million bond issue for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities, equipment and property acquisition related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137 million in federal and other funds?

               Bangor Daily News: Support

               Kennebec Journal:  Support

               Portland Press Herald: Support

New Record Expected for Absentee Ballots

According to the Secretary of State, as of November 1, more than 220,000 Mainers had requested absentee ballots for the November 8 election, and more than 160,000 had already voted using this process. Thursday, November 3 was the last day for voters to pick up absentee ballots. The record for most votes cast by absentee ballot is 237,000 from the 2008 presidential election, where almost 237,000 Mainers voted using this method.   The number of Mainers voting by absentee ballot has increased since the 1990s when the state became a “no excuse” state, meaning a voter doesn’t have to meet any special circumstances to qualify for an absentee ballot.  

Maine Senate Ethics Committee Meets, Clears Senator

For the first time since it was created 40 years ago, the Maine Senate Ethics Committee convened on Thursday, October 24.  The purpose was to hold a hearing on complaints filed by State Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond and State Senator John Patrick, both Democrats, against two Republican state senators, alleging that they unlawfully “double-dipped” by obtaining reimbursement for lodging during the legislative session from both the state legislature and their respective campaign funds. The panel, which was comprised of five senators, voted to clear Senator Ron Collins of any wrongdoing. The panel voted to table the matter in the case of Senator Andre Cushing.  Some viewed this exercise as a hastily concocted campaign tactic to disrupt the campaigns of the two Republican senators.  

A Race for Maine’s Electoral College Votes

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders visited Maine earlier this week to stump for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in an effort to secure Maine’s four electoral votes. Last week, presidential candidate Donald Trump made his fifth visit to Maine at a rally in Lisbon. Mr. Trump has been campaigning hard in Maine hoping to claim at least one of Maine’s four electoral votes. Maine is one of only two states that splits its Electoral College votes.  Two Electoral College votes will go to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide. The other two, however, could be split between the candidates because the candidate who receives the most votes in each of the state’s congressional districts will receive one Electoral College vote.  It’s plausible that even if one of the candidates receives the popular vote statewide in Maine, he or she could still win the popular vote in one of the two congressional districts, and therefore earn one Electoral College vote.  

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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