AUGUSTA, Maine — Donald Trump’s path to a historic upset win included an unprecedented turn in Maine. The Republican president-elect claimed one Electoral College vote, the first time the state has split its four Electoral College votes.
Democrat Hillary Clinton won the statewide vote and three Electoral College votes but lost handily to Trump in the more conservative, rural 2nd District.
Maine and its four Electoral College votes — and the fact that Maine is one of two states that is not “winner take all” — have been in the national spotlight during previous elections. About three weeks before the presidential election in 2012, Republican Mitt Romney held a five-point lead in the 2nd District, raising the possibility that Maine’s Electoral College votes would be split for the first time in history.
It didn’t happen. It never has — until this year.
This year, with Trump lagging in the polls throughout the campaign, the 2nd District’s one electoral vote was included in just about every path Trump has to the presidency. It turned out that he won comfortably and Maine’s electoral vote was not a factor.
Trump visited Maine five times during this election cycle, including an Oct. 28 appearance at a Christian school in Lisbon, which lies on the edge of the 2nd District. Trump also sent his children to Maine to stump for him.
Conversely, Clinton has not visited Maine since September 2015. Instead, her campaign sent surrogates, including actor Molly Ringwald and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. In recent weeks, she has focused her campaigning in battleground states where far more Electoral College votes are at stake, such as Florida and North Carolina.
For many voters, supporting Trump was about opposing Clinton.
“If we get Hillary Clinton elected, I just think it will be another four years of Bill Clinton,” said Michael Nason, 25, of Houlton, who voted for Trump. “And I think that we as a nation have done that already.”
Clinton was a hard choice for some Democrats.
“I feel that the issues weren’t addressed and the campaign was filled with nastiness,” Margo Davis, a 66-year-old professional surveyor from Belfast, said. “I’ve come around to respect Hillary Clinton for her years of service, but it was a very misogynist race and that disturbed me.”
Both of Maine’s congressional districts have voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 1992, including 2000 and 2004, when Republican George W. Bush won the White House. That is a marked departure from the second half of the 20th century, when Maine was a decidedly Republican state in presidential elections.
The state was strong for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, with 58 percent and 56 percent support for him, respectively. Maine Democrats also handily backed Obama over Clinton in their 2008 contest for the party’s nomination.
Aside from the major-party candidates, some voters in Maine have added attention focused on Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Although Johnson polled mostly in the single digits, he could be the key to the Libertarian Party completing the steps to establishing itself as a formal party here. The Libertarians, whose 5,000-person 2015 registration drive was validated earlier this year in U.S. District Court, must send at least 10,000 registered voters to the polls Tuesday to complete the process.
As of Thursday, only 574 registered Libertarians had cast absentee ballots in Maine, which could be a troubling sign for the Libertarians. For comparison, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who is polling well behind Johnson in Maine and elsewhere, appeared to have more absentee ballot support. Greens in Maine cast more than 6,500 absentee ballots as of Thursday.
In unofficial results with about 95 percent of precincts reporting, Johnson had tallied more than 36,000 votes and Stein had tallied more than 13,000.
Official voter turnout numbers will not be available for a while, but early indications from poll workers and the secretary of state’s office showed Maine living up to its reputation for having one of the most engaged electorates in the nation. Early estimates pegged statewide turnout at near 70 percent, a tick above 2012, probably attributable to the open presidential race and five citizen-initiated ballot questions.