Waiting in a long line usually doesn’t bring a smile to anyone’s face. But the strong turnout in all the Mount Desert Island-area towns in last week’s elections had almost everyone feeling good. Even political social media posts on election day had a tone of, “Here’s what I support. Whether or not you agree with me, please do go vote.”
In Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Trenton, Swans Island, the Cranberry Isles and Frenchboro combined, more than 3,700 people took to the polls. That’s about 34 percent of the registered voters. All eight towns had at least 23 percent registered voter participation rates. All but two had 33 percent or better, with Bar Harbor leading at 38.5 percent.
Maine consistently ranks near the top of the country in voter turnout. According to a 2016 report published by 24/7 Wall Street, Maine had the third-highest voter participation rate in the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, an average of 70.8 percent.
This strong participation may be both a symptom and a cause, in a virtuous cycle, of the healthy civic culture in which we take deserved pride. Our towns’ forms of government are highly participatory. Annual town meetings are anything but empty exercises. Residents devote countless hours on boards of selectmen, school boards, planning boards, warrant committees, harbor committees, shellfish committees and other bodies, and continually work to make our communities the best they can be.
Kudos to everyone who studied the many proposals, issues and candidates, and who made their way to a polling place. You help make our communities a better place to live.