A steady stream of voters for an off-year election cast their ballots at Maine polling stations on Tuesday morning, with a combination of statewide ballot questions and local elections drawing people to the polls.
In Bangor, the steady stream began early at the Cross Insurance Center, where voters passed several city council and school committee candidates who stood by the entrance. In Dover-Foxcroft, Clerk Lisa Bell Ronco described the turnout as typical for an off-year election — slow and “uneventful” as of Tuesday morning. In Presque Isle, the pace of voters started off slow but had picked up by about 10:30 a.m.
In an election that didn’t feature any presidential, gubernatorial or congressional races, most who came out to vote said they did so every year. Many described it as a civic duty that shouldn’t stop when statewide or federal candidates aren’t on the ballot.
“These are the important, nitty gritty details of how the city is run,” said Justin Duncan, a 32-year-old customer service supervisor who was voting in Bangor.
From left (clockwise): Bangor city council candidates James Butler, Joe Leonard and Free Martin greet voters outside of the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor Tuesday morning; Bangor city council candidates (left to right) James Butler, Joe Leonard, Free Martin, Gretchen Schaefer and Dina Yacoubagha, greet voters outside of the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor Tuesday morning; Presque Isle residents line up to vote in the Sargent community center on Election Day. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN; David DiMinno / The Star-Herald
About 96,000 voters had already cast absentee ballots as of Monday afternoon, according to data from the Maine Secretary of State’s office, while another 24,000 had requested ballots but not yet returned them. Absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
Maine saw record absentee voting last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 60 percent of voters taking advantage of the method. But widespread vaccinations may have pushed some voters to vote at the polls instead on Tuesday.
Despite there being three statewide ballot questions, many said it was Question 1, on the fate of the Central Maine Power Co. corridor, that was a decisive factor in bringing them to the polls, including Mei-Lee Perkins, a 27-year-old chef in Bangor.
Perkins said she was excited to weigh in after seeing numerous advertisements on both sides. She said she spoke about the topic with coworkers.
“I just thought I’d do it before work,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t take very much.”
Adam Skillin, 37, of Dover-Foxcroft cast a “no” vote on Question 1, saying CMP should be allowed to build the corridor through western Maine that will carry hydropower from Quebec to the New England grid.
“We’ve already got logging roads. We’ve already got transmission lines. Anything coming from windmills and coming from solar panels. We still have power lines,” he said. “So why would this be any different?”
In Houlton, Blaine Nickerson cast a “yes” vote, in opposition to CMP’s corridor. “I don’t want Canada using the state of Maine as their transport to get power to Massachusetts,” he said.
Turnout has varied widely during off-year elections over the past decade. Only about 190,000 voters cast ballots in November 2019, when the only statewide issues were a bond question and a constitutional amendment concerning voting access for people with disabilities. But more than 346,000 voted in 2017, when Medicaid expansion was on the ballot.
The high-profile Central Maine Power Co. corridor referendum could be a motivating factor for voters this year, as political ads related to the 145-mile transmission line project have been difficult to avoid over the past few months amid record campaign spending.
BDN writers Valerie Royzman in Dover-Foxcroft, Alex MacDougall in Houlton and David Diminno in Presque Isle contributed to this report.