Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, speaks during a rally encouraging legislators to override Gov. Janet Mills' veto of a bill that would ban foreign government-owned companies from spending in Maine elections on July 25, at the State House in Augusta. Credit: Joe Phelan / The Kennebec Journal via AP

Maine voters easily passed a ban on foreign electioneering on Tuesday despite concerns from Gov. Janet Mills and media groups that it would violate the First Amendment.

The yes side of Question 2 had 86 percent of votes to 14 percent for the no side when the Bangor Daily News and Decision Desk HQ called the race at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday.

Question 2 seeks to ban both foreign governments and companies that are at least 5 percent owned by foreign governments from influencing candidate or referendum elections in Maine. It also urges the state’s congressional delegation to support an anti-corruption amendment to the U.S. Constitution, although that part of the question is not binding.

It was an outgrowth of Maine’s 2021 vote against the hydropower corridor being constructed by Central Maine Power Co. and Hydro-Quebec. Along with CMP’s parent, the provincial-owned utility spent a record-smashing sum against that referendum, drawing the ire of corridor opponents whose race was funded by CMP’s competitors in the regional power market.

Question 2 would have wide effects on utility politics. Both Hydro-Quebec and Versant Power, the latter of which is owned by a company whose sole shareholder is the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta, would be silenced in campaigns. CMP has said it would not be affected, but that is an open question since its Spanish parent is partially owned by Qatar and Norway.

Mills, a Democrat who backed the corridor, vetoed this question and a 2021 measure that was similar, saying Question 2 would have the effect of “silencing legitimate voices … in debates that would impact their interests” in her veto letter earlier this year.

She also amplified the constitutional concerns of news industry groups, including the Maine Press Association, which has said the law could force outlets to “create an oppressive, time-consuming, and costly self-censorship regime” to ensure advertisements and opinion pieces do not violate the law. The Bangor Daily News is a member of that association.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...