Maine Voters Get Set To Weigh In On Ballot Items

Nov 2, 2017

We're now less than a week away from Election Day.  There are four items on Maine's statewide ballot.  Maine Public's Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz talks about three of them with University of Maine at Farmington Political Science Professor Jim Melcher.

GRATZ: Statewide, folks are going to face four questions: The first one is another casino vote. Now, the opposition this time is less focused on gambling per se than on who would get to develop this casino.

MELCHER: That's right. They've taken straight aim at Shawn Scott. The initiative proposal mentions that the casino could be built by a certain person, and that is Shawn Scott. And so his opponents, who are largely funded - or in the case of one of the groups, the “Wicked Shady” group, is completely funded - by the owners of the Oxford Casino, that would obviously lose out on it, are questioning his integrity his ethics record. Because, obviously, they're not in a position to criticize gambling per se. And now the pro-issue 1 people have fired back with their own website called wickedbadtry.com. So there are people who have been saying for years that gambling is wicked. Well, you know, in some ways this campaign is proving it.

GRATZ: Question 2 is the one that would expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This is something that's passed the Legislature multiple times in recent years only to be thwarted by Gov. LePage’s veto. So what are the issues involved here?

MELCHER: There's a number of issues, and it's cast differently by different people. Gov. LePage sees this as welfare expansion. He wanted to put the word “welfare” on the ballot in describing it. It's part of his general view of government that this is subsidizing people that shouldn't be getting government subsidies. He also raises the hospital payments issue from the 2000s, when the economy was weak and the state had difficulty paying back hospitals. The dark horse that has been coming up in opposition that I've been seeing a lot of in the last couple of days is abortion. I've been seeing quite a few posts on social media saying, “Planned Parenthood in Maine is suing to get abortion coverage under Medicaid. Abortion’s on the ballot. Turn out and vote on this to say ‘no’ to abortion.” And I don't think anybody had really anticipated that being an issue. I think the pro-issue 2 people have had a very effective campaign putting a face on the people who would benefit, and we’re getting watched nationwide - there's another issue in this.

GRATZ: Item 3 is the latest transportation bond issue. Nothing controversial there, I take it.

MELCHER: No. I wrote an article last year for Maine Policy Review looking back at Maine and bond elections, and transportation bonds do indeed - as their reputation suggests - do very well, although most bonds do very well in Maine. There's no organized opposition. Since transportation bonds started mentioning a very broad array of projects in the 1970s and 1980s, it has been very, very rare for a transportation bond to lose.

Question 4 on the ballot is a constitutional amendment allowing the state retirement system to take longer to make up for down years in the stock market.