Matthew Woodbury is first in line, waiting for polls to open at the East End Community School in Portland on Tuesday morning Nov. 2, 2021. Woodbury, a carpenter, said he turned up early before work mostly to vote yes on question one. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. Today is Election Day. Polls in Maine close at 8 p.m. Read our most essential coverage here and follow along with us for results here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “At that point, it’s figuring out, ‘All right, which towels do I cut up,’” said Penny Picard Sampson of Unity, about struggling to find the bandages needed to handle her diverticulitis as supply shortages make medical equipment hard to find. “While people are worried about their Christmas toys, I’m worried about getting my medical supplies.”

What we’re watching today

We will better understand the tension between Maine’s biggest utility and voters with a bigger test likely in 2022. The vote on Question 1, the referendum that aims to kill the $1 billion Central Maine Power Co. corridor, has major regional stakes, with Massachusetts trying to close a deal on a major clean-power purchase and Hydro-Quebec looking to become a major energy exporter. In Maine, the relationship between the embattled CMP and the public is the major story of this election and potentially others to come.

Turnout is uncertain: As one would expect, Maine’s 120,000 absentee ballot requests are way behind historic 2020 levels but way ahead of the total in a sleepy 2019 election. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ office is not releasing a turnout estimate this year and the million-dollar question is how much in-person voting will recover after dropping early in the pandemic.

We will see today how much the CMP corridor debate will motivate voters. There has only been one public poll in the race, showing the yes side — the corridor opponents — with a big edge but 15 percent of voters still undecided about a week from Election Day. Any number of outcomes from a blowout win for corridor opponents to a close race between the sides seems to be in play.

While opposition to the corridor began in western Maine, the political geography may have shifted in the two years. Among the first signs of resistance to the 145-mile transmission line were the decisions by some towns where the corridor was set to run withdrawing their support in 2019. CMP has actively attempted to court voters in those areas, promising that the corridor would help expand broadband, among other perks.

But skepticism of the project spread statewide over the past two years, rallying some liberals in other parts of the state concerned about the environmental effects of its construction and voters of all stripes distrustful of CMP. At the same time, as construction got underway, the corridor began to have direct effects for some communities, such as Lewiston, Maine’s second-largest city, which is able to offer tax breaks to its residents because of the project.

The mayors of Lewiston and Auburn have been among the vocal proponents of the corridor in the final stretch. It is not clear whether their support will overcome broader skepticism about the project, in western Maine or elsewhere. But we will be watching for geographic differences as Question 1 results come in tonight.

A mostly low-key set of local races are being targeted by activists over issues that have emerged during the pandemic. As national conservative groups are mobilizing people to get involved in their communities, we will be watching to see if hot-button issues are making a difference with voters. Portland may choose a solid progressive majority on the city council after making key gains in other offices. Ellsworth is dealing with the question of whether students should have to wear masks in school is a main issue in a three-way race for a school board seat. In Hampden, some activists have pushed for the schools to say if they teach critical race theory. Those instances could be signs of a shift ahead of the 2022 midterms.

The Maine politics top 3

— “What to expect at the Maine polls during a more normal pandemic election,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “It is the second general election held under pandemic conditions in Maine, although turnout is expected to be considerably lower than last November’s presidential election. Widespread vaccinations have allowed cities and towns to switch back to some pre-coronavirus voting procedures, but some precautions will still be in place.”

— “Arrest of alleged leader in Maine marijuana scheme sheds light on industry that resists stronger oversight,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “Maine was one of the first states to legalize cannabis for medical reasons in a 1999 referendum. The sale and possession of the drug in any form remains illegal federally under the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, but that law isn’t enforced by the federal government when operations happen within state law.”

— “Aroostook will distribute lifesaving naloxone to every inmate leaving county jail,” Hannah Catlin, BDN: “Jails are a vulnerable spot in the battle against substance use disorder. Somewhere between a quarter and 40 percent of the people who died of overdose in Aroostook County this year had been incarcerated at the jail, [project coordinator] Erik Lamoreau said.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...