November 5, 2013

In Maine, contentious local issues grab voter interest

Bond questions totaling $150 million add interest to an otherwise lackluster statewide ballot.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

Portland voters are casting ballots on marijuana legalization.

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Campaign signs for and against a proposed waterfront ordinance in South Portland dot the median near the Casco Bay Bridge on Monday, a day before the election.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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In South Portland, residents are finally getting their say on the hotly contested Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Sanford voters are choosing the city’s first popularly elected mayor.

And Saco residents are deciding whether to become one of the next communities to break away from a regional school district.

Tuesday is Election Day, and Mainers across the state are making decisions that will shape their communities and affect state borrowing and spending for years to come. Polls will be open statewide until 8 p.m.

The state ballot this year has none of the high-profile referendum battles that have drawn voters to the polls in recent years. No questions about gambling or marriage rights or tax reform this year.

But there are some big statewide decisions to be made nonetheless, and all voters could be affected by the outcomes.

Five bond questions totaling nearly $150 million in proposed state borrowing will appear Tuesday on Maine’s ballot. If all are passed by voters, the money would be used to maintain and improve roads, bridges and ports; invest in state universities, community colleges and Maine Maritime Academy; and upgrade Maine Army National Guard armories.

For many voters, the biggest draws on Election Day will be the local races and referendum questions.

Portlanders, for example, are choosing at least one new city councilor and two new school board members. But most attention in the state’s largest city has focused on a marijuana legalization proposal that supporters say is part of a long-term strategy to make the drug legal nationwide.

Passage of Question 1, which got on the ballot through a petition drive, would enact a city ordinance legalizing possession of as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana by anyone 21 or older within city limits. The immediate practical effects of a “yes” vote are unclear, however. State and federal law will still classify the drug as illegal, and Portland’s police chief has warned that officers will continue to enforce state law.

South Portland voters are deciding what has been the most contentious election issue in southern Maine, and probably one of the most expensive municipal campaigns in state history.

Supporters of the proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance say passage Tuesday will ensure that Canadian tar sands oil never flows through the city to be loaded on ships and exported to world markets. But opponents, including the oil industry and city petroleum terminals, have spent more than $600,000 to defeat the referendum, arguing it will only harm existing businesses that have nothing to do with tar sands crude.

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Today's poll: Election Day

Do you plan to vote today?



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