A recent Press Herald editorial (“Our View: Maine shouldn’t adopt government by referendum,” July 28) continues to advance the unsupported notion that the anti-bear baiting ballot initiative in November 2014 – which lost narrowly – had a big impact in driving conservative turnout.

Maine Democrats actually did better in 2014 than they did in the last midterm election, in 2010, when the bear measure was not on the ballot. And although voter turnout increased between 2010 and 2014, fully a third of the increased turnout was in Cumberland County, which voted 57 percent to 43 percent in favor of protecting Maine’s bears.

Indeed, the “yes” side on the bear referendum consistently outperformed Democrats, leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud by 6 percentage points in Cumberland County and 10 percentage points in York County.

In other words, Democrats lost the election despite higher turnout caused by the bear referendum, not because of it.

There’s a chance that some of the top-of-the-ticket Democrats who lost their races were adversely affected because they chose to oppose the ban on bear baiting. Large majorities of Democrats in the state favored the measure, and it didn’t help the candidates’ case that they supported an obviously inhumane and unsporting practice.

If key Democrats had not pandered to bear baiters, hounders and trappers, they might have added some votes to their totals. But the notion that the bear measure skewed turnout is not supported in the least by a careful county-by-county data analysis.

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