The kids have been back to school for a month, but now it’s time for the grown-ups to put away the summer toys and start doing their homework. An election is coming up on November 3. Are you ready?
It is an off-cycle election, meaning we are not electing a president, a governor, a legislature or any congressmen. That doesn’t mean you get to ignore it.
The referendum question commanding most of the pre-election ink is the proposal to reinvigorate the Maine Clean Election Act, require top-dollar donor disclosure on political ads and increase penalties for campaign finance violations.
Maine’s Clean Elections program was gutted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Until then, a Clean Elections candidate received a disbursement based on average campaign spending for the office sought and could receive additional funds if he or she was being outspent by an opponent who was not in the program.
The Supreme Court decision nullified that matching provision in Maine law, leaving Clean Elections candidates, who had foregone other funding sources, sitting ducks for candidates able to raise unlimited amounts of money.
Question 1 would restore the ability of Clean Elections candidates to compete with privately funded candidates. Sad to say, if it’s not all about the money, it is almost all about the money. A candidate who already has served a term or two has some advantages in being known to many voters in the district. But a newbie to the political arena has a hard time getting traction.
If you are not in love with your elected officials, not proud of their performance, not impressed with their accomplishments, then why on earth would you want to make it well nigh impossible for a challenger to get in there and see if he or she can do better?
Furthermore, if you are of a “pox on both their houses” mind, the degree of difficulty for independents or independent-minded party members is exponentially greater. Party support will go to those who will toe the party line. Party support no longer comes from just our friends and neighbors. It comes from national headquarters by the bucketful and is very hard to equal by a candidate not supported by a party.
Question 1 on the state ballot strengthens Maine campaign finance laws in a way that begins to level the playing field. If you have ever complained about the lack of good candidates, you should be out there on Nov. 3 voting for it.
There are two other questions on the state ballot, both bonds. One might ask oneself what is the use of voting for bonds right now when our governor is refusing to issue any. But have faith, my people, this too shall pass; it is not an exercise in futility.
Question 2 proposes to bond $15 million for the “construction of new energy-efficient homes for low-income seniors” as well as “adaptive reuse” and “repair and weatherization of existing homes” for low-income seniors.
Think we don’t need this? Take a drive around Down East Maine when the winter gets going and check out the conditions under which some of our neighbors are living. If getting old is not for sissies, living through a Maine winter with inadequate shelter is tantamount to a death sentence. This bond would be matched by an estimated $22.6 million in “private and other funds.”
Question 3 is the latest highway bond. At $85 million, it would be matched by $121.5 million. Roads, bridges, ports, harbors, railroads, aviation and bicycle and pedestrian travel all would benefit. With roads not fully recovered from last winter and already assaulted by record fall rains, we had better go for this one. This is the seventh highway bond floated in the past decade. So far, all have passed.
A couple of seats in the legislature need to be filled; neither is in Hancock County. But do not utter a “ho hum” and make other plans for Nov. 3. Your own municipality may have seats to fill on local boards, ordinances to consider or financial matters needing voter approval, so you should check all that out in your local newspaper or at your town office.
Maine is a leader when it comes to voter turnout. In the 2014 mid-term election, turnout nationally was just above one third (36.6 percent). In Maine, turnout was closer to two thirds (about 59 percent). That made us number one in the country.
Maine has exceeded the national average for voter turnout in every presidential election and has ranked at or near the top of state voter turnout for years. States with high voter turnout share an important practice, that of allowing Election Day voter registration. Maine was first to do so, in 1973. In 2011, Republicans voted in a new law requiring registration at least two business days before an election, but voters promptly rallied around a citizens’ initiative that brought back same-day registration with a convincing 60 percent level of support.
Make your plans to vote now. Get an absentee ballot if you won’t be available on Nov. 3. Vote.