Monday, March 10, 2014
KENNEBUNKPORT — Tuesday’s off-year election may not be the most significant in recent years, but hundreds of thousands of Mainers will no doubt see it as their civic duty to cast a ballot.
Kennebunkport Town Clerk April Dufoe does everything she can to encourage voting in her town. And it shows.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Maine typically sees some of the highest voter turnouts in the country. The scene at the polls, however, is sure to vary from town to town.
The Maine Sunday Telegram looked at voter registration and election data from the past two years to find out where in the state residents are most – and least – likely to visit a voting booth. We also found which towns stand out as the most Republican, the most Democratic and the most independent. And then we asked why.
KENNEBUNKPORT: HIGHEST TURNOUT
On the edge of the town center, on the way to Walker’s Point, the summer home of former President George H.W. Bush, George Geyerhahn’s puggle, Lilly, romped down the hallway of the Town Office, her loose leash dragging between her legs.
There are two things the staff here pays extra attention to: dogs and democracy.
“I will do anything and everything I can to encourage voter turnout,” said Town Clerk April Dufoe, after handing a treat over the counter to Lilly, who stood ready on her hind legs.
For that reason, it didn’t come as a surprise to Dufoe that Kennebunkport had a higher turnout rate in the last two November elections than any other Maine town with more than 1,000 registered voters.
In the off-year election of 2011, 59 percent of the town’s 2,569 voters came out to the polls to weigh in on questions about gambling and same-day voter registration. Last year, nine out of 10 registered voters cast ballots for president.
The statistics were right in front of Dufoe in a manila folder on her desk. But she could spout those numbers and more without looking. There was a 92 percent turnout rate for the 2004 election and, in 2008, 45 percent of the ballots cast were absentee, she said.
“I think it’s fun,” she said about the data.
But it’s about much more than that for her, too.
“It’s the democratic way,” said Dufoe, this year’s recipient of the Secretary of State’s Lorraine M. Fleury Award for significant contribution to the election process.
The more people who vote, she said, the better it works. “You know it’s the will of the people.”
As Dufoe handed out absentee ballots to voters at the Town Office on Thursday morning, she also signed them up to have ballots for the school construction bond referendum in January mailed to their homes.
It was the last day of absentee voting, so there was a line.
Geyerhahn renewed Lilly’s dog license while he waited his turn. In front of him were Florence and Rip Emerson, who picked up ballots that they planned to return Monday after taking the weekend to talk over the issues.
David James filled out his ballot right there. He didn’t expect to be too busy to go to the polls on Election Day, but he had nothing better to do Thursday, either.
“It’s a crummy day out,” he said.
Sure, the number of retirees in town – where the median age is 52 – is a factor in the high turnout rate, Dufoe said. But not only because they have the time to pay attention. They also come from an era when there was more patriotism, more pride taken in voting, she said.
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