Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap started his day Tuesday by voting in Old Town. He then traveled around the state to visit with voters and election officials at polling places in Waterville, Portland, Lewiston and Bangor.
This put the state’s top election official in a good position to assess voter primary turnout.
Dunlap said Tuesday night that turnout seemed heavy in the 2nd Congressional District, where two Democrats and two Republicans fought for the right to run for Rep. Mike Michaud’s vacated seat in November.
But overall, statewide turnout appeared relatively light and will likely fall into the 13 to 15 percent range, Dunlap said. Final numbers won’t be available for a few more days.
Dunlap said hotly contested local questions produced larger-than-expected turnouts in Portland, where a public parks referendum was on the ballot; and in Lewiston and Auburn, where voters were asked whether they wanted a Charter Commission to explore the feasibility of consolidating the two city governments. There were only a handful of legislative primaries statewide.
“There is a lot going on in Portland with the parks referendum and in Lewiston-Auburn,” Dunlap said. “Otherwise, the voting has been slow but steady all day. It has been pretty typical for a primary election.”
Jessica Grondin, Portland’s spokeswoman, said 9,493 people voted Tuesday, an 18 percent turnout. There are 52,330 registered voters in the city.
“It was a heavier than normal turnout for a primary,” she said.
The high turnout was likely due to the citizen initiative question, which asked voters to make it more difficult to sell an additional 35 city parks, and in the process would block a City Council vote to sell Congress Square Plaza. The parks question was approved, 4,888 to 4,605.
In Cumberland County, the hot race was for sheriff, where a surge in spending and negative advertising drew the lion’s share of public attention.
With no Republican running, Democratic incumbent Sheriff Kevin Joyce, who defeated retired Trooper Mike Edes, has effectively won the sheriff’s job and will run the county jail and law enforcement services for towns that don’t have their own police departments.
Dunlap said a spirited sheriff’s race – and just about every county has had one over the past 20 years – can drive up turnout.
Turnout in many York County towns was driven by the sheriff race, a three-way Democratic primary won by William King Jr. over retired deputy Paul Main and former Berwick Police Chief Dana LaJoie. Again, with no Republican running, King has effectively won the post.
But voters also cast ballots for non-political reasons.
Mark Chadbourne said he voted in Portland because it was his civic duty.
“I think it’s important to exercise our freedom to vote even though it’s disappointing that a lot of the elections are uncontested,” Chadbourne said.
Mark and Margaret Grover, both Republicans, went to the polls to vote on one issue – the Freeport school budget.
“I just think they can tighten their belts more if they tried,” Mark Grover said.