Maine voters headed to the polls Tuesday to decide four state ballot questions, including whether to expand Medicaid eligibility and allow a casino in York County. A number of key questions, including whether to merge Lewiston and Auburn, are on local ballots. Stay here on election night for results, insights and analysis.
— Sen. Shenna Bellows (@SenBellows) November 8, 2017
Now that the election is over, it's time for the Legislature to respect the outcome. Respect the will of the voters. Period. #mepolitics
— Sen. Justin Chenette (@justinchenette) November 8, 2017
Only hours after Maine voters approved Medicaid expansion at the ballot box, a fight over its implementation began to brew.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Gov. Paul LePage said his administration would not implement the voter-approved law, calling it “fiscally irresponsible.”
“Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled,” LePage said.
A study in extremes
Maine’s wealthiest town voted decisively for Medicaid expansion, Question 2 on today’s ballot. The state’s poorest community? Voters there were overwhelmingly against it.
In Cumberland, the Maine town with the highest median household income, 64 percent of voters favored expanding Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults whose income is no higher than $21,599 for a two-member household. The vote tally was 1,792-988.
Cumberland’s median household income there is $107,853, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Highland Plantation, with the lowest median income in the state, opposed Medicaid expansion by an even larger margin. Some 69 percent of voters in the Somerset County community opposed Medicaid expansion. The tally was 18 votes in favor and 40 against.
The median household income in Highland Plantation is $18,438, according to Census estimates.
Maine voters overwhelmingly rejected the referendum to allow a new casino to open in York County.
The casino went down with only 17 percent of the vote, with 76 percent of precincts reporting at 10:45 p.m.
That is among the lowest “yes” vote totals of any Maine referendum going back to 1911, according to historic vote tallies.
But at least one referendum went down by an even wider margin.
In 1979, bottlers and distributors backed an attempt to overturn the state’s young bottle bill, which put a deposit on bottles and cans.
Mainers overwhelmingly rejected the repeal, casting 226,687 votes to affirm the bottle bill, compared with only 41,480 to toss it.
With only about 15 percent of the vote, it is the only referendum to have performed more poorly at the polls than the York County casino.
With Question 2 projected to pass, attention now turns to implementation of Medicaid expansion under a LePage administration resolutely opposed to the policy.
The policy takes effect 30 days after the governor proclaims the official results of the election.
Within 90 days of that point, the initiative text says the Maine Department of Health and Human Services shall submit a plan amendment with the federal government opting into the expansion.
Within 180 days of the law’s effective date, a person newly eligible for Medicaid coverage should be able to receive that coverage.
The initiative text wouldn’t allow the LePage administration to impose higher co-payments on the newly eligible population.
In Portland, Kimberly Cook has been elected to represent District 5 on the City Council. She won a three-way race with more than 64 percent of the vote, beating out Marpheen Chann-Berry, with about 22 percent, and Craig Dorais with about 14 percent.
Cook was endorsed by outgoing City Councilor David Brenerman.
Tonight’s results haven’t been kind to Gov. LePage. Not only has he consistently opposed Medicaid expansion, he also pushed for Lewiston and Auburn to merge.
The Associated Press has called Question 2 for Medicaid expansion proponents, with 133,020 votes in favor and 91,387 against with 64 percent of precincts reporting. That’s 59 percent in favor, 41 percent against.
The vote on Question 2 was much closer in Brewer than it was in Bangor, according to unofficial results.
The “yes” votes on expanding Medicaid coverage won out in Brewer, but only by 39 votes. The tally was 1,064-1,025.
Brewer also had two competitive school committee races.
Cynthia Small (936 votes) and John Canders (731 votes) have won three-year terms; Trudy Irene Scee (698 votes) and Kathleen Cooney (505 votes) were also vying for three-year terms.
Mark Farley has won a one-year term on the school committee, defeating Zachary Arey 1,048-651.
Brewer voters were also solidly against a York County casino and in favor of a transportation bond (Question 3) and a constitutional amendment on state pension funding (Question 4).
In Portland, City Councilor Justin Costa has been elected to a second term.
He won District 4 with more than 68 percent of the vote, beating out first-time candidate Kimberly Rich.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to serve,” Costa told the Bangor Daily News. In the coming years, housing and affordability issues will be his focus, he said.
A flashback as we await results on Question 2, which would extend Medicaid eligibility to about 80,000 low-income parents and adults without children. Gov. LePage sent down his first veto of a Medicaid expansion bill on June 17, 2013.
The Associated Press says Question 4 has passed, allowing the state to have more time to pay off any losses in the state’s pension fund, to 20 years from 10 years.
Actually, just read this story by Chris Cousins. It’s got all you need(ed) to know.
In Portland, rent control is looking unlikely to pass. With eight of 12 precincts reporting more than 66 percent of locals have voted against it.
In Portland, the rent control referendum is way down with eight of 12 precincts reporting. pic.twitter.com/AowmTU5x6p
— Jake Bleiberg (@JZBleiberg) November 8, 2017
A costly gambit
At the moment, the failed Question 1 casino effort is at about $442 per vote. About $9.3 million spent and about 21,000 Yes votes.
Transportation bond: full speed ahead
The Associated Press has predicted a victory for Question 3, which seeks a $105 million transportation bond for Maine’s transportation infrastructure.
With 36 percent of towns and cities reporting, the bond had 72 percent support.
If “Blank” were a candidate for city council in Bangor, he or she would be victorious tonight. Bangor voters re-elected City Councilor Ben Sprague and chose newcomers Clare Davitt and Laura Supica, but only Sprague’s vote total topped the number of blank ballots.
Sprague got 4,328 votes while 3,718 voters left their council ballots blank. Davitt got 2,458 votes, and Supica got 2,439.
Mason family retains Lisbon House seat
Republican Rick Mason has won the Maine House of Representatives seat formerly held by his late wife, Gina Mason, with 57 percent of the vote, according to official results.
Gina Mason, 57, died suddenly in early September during her first House term. The District 56 seat covers the town of Lisbon.
The Associated Press has called Question 1 for casino opponents. Story on its way from the BDN.
York County casino bid faces convincing defeat
The Associated Press has called Question 1, a bid for a York County casino, as having failed. Results collected up until now showed more than 84 percent opposition.
Rent control down in early Portland votes
With one of five Portland districts reporting, the rent control measure is lagging with more than 70 percent of District 3 voters opposed. A citizens initiative to give neighborhoods the power to block zoning changes is in a tighter race there, with 56 percent of voters opposed and 44 in favor.
Between the two competing school bonds, Question 3, which would pay for renovations at four city schools is ahead of Question 4, which would fund work at only two school. But we won’t know much on that issue until all districts report because bond measures require a majority of votes to be approved.
Early statement from Medicaid expansion proponent Jeremy Kennedy:
Unofficial results from Bangor show a decisive rejection of a York County casino and an embrace of Medicaid expansion. Almost 10 times as many Queen City voters rejected the York County casino as voted for it. The tally was 569 votes in favor and 5,402 against.
Some 4,019 Bangor voters said yes to Medicaid expansion; 1,966 said no. That’s two-thirds in favor.
Early statement from Medicaid expansion proponent Jeremy Kennedy:
Jeremy Kennedy, co-chair of the "Yes On 2" campaign, is awaiting results with supporters at Bayside Bowl in Portland, where the polls closed at 8 p.m.
Posted by The Bangor Daily News on Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Portland results rolling in
Ballots are starting to be tallied at Portland City Hall, and Maine’s largest city has a lot at stake.
In addition to the statewide questions, locals voted on two City Council races, competing measures to fund renovations at either two or four city elementary school, a citizens initiative that would give neighborhoods the power to block zoning changes and another initiative that would sharply limit large landlords ability to raise rents.
The rent control measure would be the firsts of its kind in Maine, and the zoning initiative also has statewide implications. Residents of the city’s West End are trying to use the proposed zoning ordinance to block the construction of a large refrigerated storage unit on the western waterfront that state officials have called “critical” to the state economy.
Helpful advice from a concerned reader:
Let off the choke a little once she gets stahted, Chris, ain’t no reason ta flood her out.
— Nathan Dore (@natechural) November 8, 2017
Thank you concerned reader!!
Early results coming out of Lewiston show the proposed merger with its sister city, Auburn, is sinking in the polls, according to BDN politics writer Michael Shepherd.
A poll-watcher told me the L/A merger went down in Lewiston’s Ward 6 by a whopping 953-356.
Unofficial and early, but wow. #mepolitics
— Michael Shepherd (@mikeshepherdME) November 8, 2017
Another Lewiston poll-watcher: L/A merger goes down 1,024-451 in Ward 2. This thing is going down in flames. #mepolitics
— Michael Shepherd (@mikeshepherdME) November 8, 2017
Lewiston and Auburn have a long history of failed mergers that dates back to 1869, when Auburn residents voted 299-283 against a referendum to join Lewiston. Just in the last 20 years, three other citizen commissions — in 1996, 2006 and 2009 — created a roadmap for how city officials could merge Lewiston and Auburn, along with the benefits of doing so, but the merger proposals never went to voters.
If the Lewiston-Auburn effort succeeds, it will be the first time two Maine cities have merged in almost a century.
JUST IN: THE FIRST RESULTS
Glenwood Plantation, a bustling town of three (3) residents in Aroostook County has become the first Maine town to submit its election results to the Bangor Daily News.
We’re not saying the town is a bellwether but here are the results (drumroll?): Nobody from Glenwood Plantation voted.
The whole world is watching. Or at least the country.
It’s been said before and we’ll say it again: There are a lot of eyes on Maine and Tuesday’s referendum to expand the state’s Medicaid program. The New York Times is hosting a page collecting the results of Maine’s Question 2 vote but no need to bother the Gray Lady: The Bangor Daily News will have your up-to-the-minutes results right here. Maine’s polling places are closed.
Ranked-choice voting people’s veto effort off to quick start
Just a day after their petition effort was approved by the Maine Secretary of State’s office, organizers of a fledgling people’s veto around ranked-choice voting said Tuesday night that they had launched a successful statewide volunteer push to collecting the necessary 61,123 signatures.
Ranked-choice voting was enacted during a November 2016 referendum but late last month, the Legislature enacted a bill to put off implementation until December 2021 or repeal the law altogether if it can’t be brought to full compliance with the Maine Constitution by then.
Dick Woodbury, who chairs the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, estimated Monday evening that volunteers were at polling locations in at least 150 towns and cities. Woodbury couldn’t estimate how many signatures were gathered but he said many voters were eager to sign.
“It’s clear that there is a majority of Maine voters that would rather have this ranked-choice voting system in place for the way we elect our leaders,” said Woodbury. “It seems like there was a bit of added energy this time because it seemed like the Legislature was getting to a point where it was just too frequently overpowering what people really wanted.”
Woodbury said the committee intends to conduct the rest of the signature drive using exclusively volunteers. They have 90 days from Monday to collect signatures. If they look to be at least close to the goal the deadline, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has said that would be enough to put a freeze on the law, which Gov. Paul LePage let go into effect without his signature.
We think this is how elections in Lewiston and Auburn will go. No local elections in Maine are bigger than three on Tuesday in Lewiston and Auburn. Voters will decide on merging the two cities and both will pick new mayors.
Many the ground in Lewiston and Auburn think that the merger will go down in both cities, but harder in Auburn.
“Lewiston has a lot to gain and Auburn has a lot to lose,” said Greg Poliquin, 61, of Auburn at a suburban polling place on Tuesday.
The mayoral races are hard to call. Five candidates are running in Lewiston, where progressive Ben Chin is a good bet to outpoll the field.
But Lewiston employs a December runoff if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes. City Councilor Shane Bouchard and former City Council President Mark Cayer could join Chin in that race.
And Auburn has its own interesting open-seat race, where former Republican congressional candidate Jason Levesque is taking on City Councilor Adam Lee. People backing both sides told me they couldn’t project that race on Tuesday.
Janet Mills, Maine attorney general and contender for Democratic nomination for governor, weighs in on Question 2, Medicaid expansion.
— Janet Mills (@JanetMillsforME) November 6, 2017
Do you feel like you’ve seen $3.4 million worth of casino ads?
That’s about how much proponents of putting a casino have spent on television, radio and print advertisements in just September, October and the first six days of November.
That came after a long run-up in spending, starting in 2015 with developer Shawn Scott’s failed effort to get the casino question out to voters in 2016.
The campaign to expand Medicaid spent the next-highest amount, with almost $2 million put into the race through Nov. 6.
At my polling place, the line to get ballots was 20 people deep when I arrived+at least that long when I left. Another 25-30 people were completing their ballots + 10 more were waiting to feed their ballots into the machine. Highly unusual for mid-morning of an off-year election.
— nubby95 (@nubby95) November 7, 2017
Happy Election Day. Here’s our political team’s quick set-up for today. Supporters of ranked-choice voting are fanning out across the state to gather signatures for a people’s veto aimed at killing a new law that could smother the 2016 referendum they supported before the system starts in Maine.
There are four races on the statewide ballot — including a first-in-the-nation referendum on Medicaid expansion — and a host of notable local races, including a proposed merger of Lewiston and Auburn.