With everything else that has been happening in Maine, it might be easy to forget that there’s an election on Tuesday. Voters across the state have eight referendum questions to consider on the ballot. The number is daunting, but each of these questions deserve careful consideration. Voters also have local elections and issues to be aware of and weigh in on, as well.
If there is a quick summary of our recommendations for the eight statewide ballot questions, it is this: Vote no on the first four, and yes on the last four. Questions 1-4 are more complicated than they seem, and ultimately, we believe, do not address legitimate issues in the right way. Questions 5-8, on the other hand, are much more simple than they seem, and deserve widespread support.
We’ve included summaries from our longer vote recommendations for each of these questions. We’ll begin with Question 3 below, since Question 1 is a response to it.
This question seeks to form a new consumer-owned utility, the Pine Tree Power Company, with an expensive takeover of Central Maine Power and Versant. It is unclear how much exactly this takeover will cost, who will manage the new utility and how it can fulfill its somewhat conflicting promises of lower rates, better reliability and more renewable energy.
All this uncertainty to create a new utility doesn’t make sense. We have long argued that CMP and Versant can – and should – be held to higher standards by the Public Utilities Commission. A new utility accountability law was an important move in this direction, but more can be done to require investments in customer service, reliability and improvements for renewable energy, and to try to minimize rate increases. That’s a much better way forward than an expensive utility takeover that is not likely to deliver on its many promises. That’s why we urge a no vote on Question 3.
Question 1 is a direct response to Question 3 and, we think, a fairly cynical one. CMP quickly got the question on the ballot in case the Pine Tree Power referendum passes. Essentially, the question would require a public vote to approve the borrowing necessary to acquire CMP and Versant if Question 3 passes. This basically would give CMP a second opportunity to stop a utility takeover in case voters support it this November.
We don’t have objections to a public vote on so much public borrowing – bonds to pay for transportation, water quality improvements and other large public works already require such votes. But, we do object to the reason this question is on the ballot.
We’re all for everyone being introspective about the current campaign finance system, the money involved, and our collective roles in it — including media organizations. But that reflection and needed reform must not come at the expense of the First Amendment. We recommend that Maine voters dig deeper into the details of Question 2, which raise constitutional concerns, and hope they will reach the same conclusion we have: Question 2 is not the right solution to a real problem, and thus deserves a no vote.
Question 4 seeks to enshrine a so-called “right to repair” to ensure that vehicle owners can turn to independent shops and not be reliant on dealerships and manufacturers for service and repairs. We support this concept, and hope it will be safeguarded and standardized for the entire country through federal legislation.
A statewide referendum here in Maine, however, is not the way to address this nationwide issue. This question presented to voters oversimplifies a complicated and technical conversation, and the detailed proposal it contains raises a host of concerns — not just for the auto industry, but for those of us who want to see this addressed for consumers in a uniform way (and one that protects their privacy) at the federal level rather than piecemeal across the country.
Question 5 would change the language in the Maine Constitution to give the secretary of state’s office more time to verify signatures that are submitted within 30 days of a general election, which could avoid such stressful time crunches. We recommend a yes vote.
Nearly 150 years ago, Maine stopped printing sections of its constitution, including a section about the state’s treaty obligations to Wabanaki tribes. The sections remain valid but don’t appear in official versions of the state constitution. Question 6 would require the printing of all parts of the Maine Constitution, including these obligations.
Maine voters should join in the critical effort of building more understanding and trust between the state and Wabanaki tribes by voting yes on Question 6.
Question 6 would not change any state laws related to the tribes — it would simply ensure that historic treaty obligations to Maine’s Wabanaki people are actually fully included in the Maine Constitution.
The most important words in this ballot question, which seeks to amend the Maine Constitution, are the last nine.
In a nutshell, a federal court has ruled that a provision in the state Constitution that requires petition circulators to be Maine residents and registered voters in Maine violates the U.S. Constitution.
As a result, that provision is unenforceable and needs to come out of the Maine Constitution.
A person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness can already (and rightly) vote in Maine today. They have been able to for more than two decades, since a federal judge ruled that the restriction disenfranchised these Mainers and violated both the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Since then, this outdated, imprecise and frankly discriminatory language has remained in the Maine Constitution but has not been enforced.
Though the background to Question 8 is complex, it should add up to a relatively easy decision for voters this fall. We recommend a yes vote on Question 8.
Above all, no matter how you choose to vote on each of these statewide ballot questions and issues on your local ballot, please remember to vote.