November 1, 2013

Maine’s top election official expects low turnout Tuesday

By David Sharp
The Associated Press

Maine’s top election official expects voter turnout Tuesday to be on the low side, as expected in an election with no candidates on the statewide ballot. But he’s encouraging people to cast their ballots nevertheless, saying there’s no such thing as a “little election.”

Five bonds are on the statewide ballot. The borrowing projects that total about $150 million would fund maintenance and improvement projects for roads and bridges, schools and armories.

There also are several hotly contested local issues. In Portland, residents will consider a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use. And voters in South Portland will consider a waterfront protection ordinance aimed at preventing so-called tar sands oil from Canada from flowing through an underground pipeline.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap predicted that turnout will be in the range of 15 percent to 25 percent of Maine’s voting age population. The lowest that he could recall was 13 percent.

“I like to say the world is run by the people who show up,” Dunlap said. “The people who don’t show up on Election Day shouldn’t complain if things don’t go the way they want to go.”

Maine typically boasts one of the nation’s highest voter turnouts, but there’s no governor’s race, Senate race, presidential race or major statewide ballot initiative to draw voters this year.

The slower pace at polling places may be helpful as the state rolls out more than 400 new voting machines featuring digital scanners to catch mistakes by voters.

Equipped with digital displays, the scanners can catch obvious problems, like someone checking too many boxes, providing an alert that makes it easy to see when a do-over is needed.

Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones said it’s nice to have a lighter-turnout election for the inaugural run.

“You want to have it go through on a lighter election. It gives everyone a chance to work on them and get geared up for the next major election,” Jones said Friday.

The next major election will be a year from now, featuring a gubernatorial race and Senate race in addition to U.S. House and legislatives races.

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