February 26, 2018
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Vote, predict and project

Statistics and history are lined up against you. Maine’s off-year elections — no statewide or national candidates are on the ballot — generally don’t drive people to the polls. Turnout, if past off-year elections are any indication, could be as low as 25 percent of the electorate.

Prove the pundits wrong. If you haven’t already done so, find your way to your polling place and vote. Maine’s future is at stake in the crop of statewide referendum questions. And of course, many cities and towns have council and selectmen races, ordinances and other issues to be decided. Don’t be left outside and looking in on important matters; vote.

In this week’s The Maine Debate, let’s have indulge in prognostication. Or, to employ an obvious pun, let’s handicap the horse race of the four statewide referendum questions.

Join us here from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Election Day, to discuss the issues.

Question 1, which, if the yes votes carry, will roll back the recently approved law ending Election Day voter registration, can be seen as a bellwether on the LePage administration and the new Republican legislative majority. Republicans and their sympathizers at the Maine Heritage Policy Center are pushing hard for defeat of Question 1.

The BDN squarely supported a yes vote, favoring repealing the new restrictions, but we acknowledge the sky won’t fall if the law remains in place. In fact, a better strategy for Democrats might have been to leverage this issue and others as a means to win back control of one or both houses of the Legislature, rather than employ the People’s Veto provision.

That provision continues to be an anchor tied to state government’s feet, in part because it is too easy to get such repeal questions on the ballot. We continue to maintain that the threshold for securing a place on the ballot should be the signatures of 20 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election, not 10 percent.

If Question 1 passes resoundingly — say, 55 percent or more — the Republican national legislative agenda, which also includes weakening collective bargaining rights and rolling back regulations on businesses, will have suffered a defeat here in Maine. If it is defeated, the results must be seen as an endorsement of the new GOP Legislature and governor.

The casino questions will be troubling for voters. They will be confronted with the fact that currently, there is but one operating in Maine — Bangor’s Hollywood Slots — even though the Oxford casino was approved a year ago. If voters pass both Question 2 and 3, Maine would go from one to five casinos. Yet the economy may trump all that wariness. Investors waiting in the wings, ready to build palace-like facilities, are hard to resist in this lean environment.

And now, on to projections. If the Biddeford and Washington County gambling facilities and the Lewiston proposal are all approved, developers may have to sit around a table and cut deals. As Gov. Paul LePage has said, the state’s population probably will not be able to support five destination resort-style casinos. Which projects would be downsized?

If all the casinos are approved and go head-to-head, which will survive? Or can all survive?

Another scenario: If the Biddeford and Washington County casinos win approval and the Lewiston project does not, is that as much slot gambling as Maine can support?

Lastly, Question 4 may be seen as a minibellwether. The innocuous proposal to have redistricting completed in Maine in a more timely way might be seen by those distrustful of government as a nefarious plot.

Join us at The Maine Debate to post your predictions and projections.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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