Trump, Governor's Race Among Drivers Of Strong Voter Turnout In Maine

Nov 7, 2018

Maine's Secretary of State says he's hearing reports of strong and steady turnout this Election Day even as rain threatens to dampen voters' enthusiasm at the polls.  Mainers were already on track to break records for absentee voting in a gubernatorial election year with more than 140,000 voters returning their absentee ballots before last Thursday's deadline to request them. And it's not just the hotly-contested governor's race that's bringing them out.

Arnold Roy of Lewiston describes himself as a lifelong Republican who's always voted for Republican candidates, until this year's mid-term election.  And he says there's one big reason why.

"I actually believe that Donald Trump is trying to start a civil war in this country," Roy says. "I was a Republican but after I've seen what Trump did, I turned to being a Democrat."

Roy says he voted for Trump for president in 2016 because he thought he'd be good for the economy, but he says he's been disappointed with Trump's tax breaks for the wealthy.  He's worried about the possible ripple effect on Medicare, Social Security and other social programs. 

He voted for Democratic candidates to protect those programs, he says, but he also wanted to make sure he voted for Question 1, the first-of-its-kind tax of 3.8 percent to provide home care for seniors regardless of their income. "I wasn't sure which way to go on that."

Karen Gurschick of Auburn said she found Question 1 confusing and isn't sure if she made the right choice.  She declined to say how she voted, but she said she turned out because she wants to see a new governor in the Blaine House. 

Scott Firley of Bangor, on the other hand, said he found the bond issues confusing.  There are $200 million worth up for consideration on the ballot this year and this was Firley's first time voting. 

But he was clear about who he wants for governor. "I favored Shawn Moody because I feel like he could relate to the hard-working person more than Janet Mills."

For Martha Ortman of Belfast, the main reason she says she turned out was to vote for Democrats for governor and Congress.  At 71, she says she's never missed an election. 

And she's enthusiastic about ranked-choice voting, the first-of-it's-kind instant runoff system being used in Maine to elect members of Congress. "I wish we had it everywhere, particularly in elections where there's four or five people running."

Ortmann says it makes sense to use ranked-choice voting to avoid having a candidate win a race with less than 50 percent of the vote, and especially in a state like Maine where the majority of voters are unenrolled.  But in Ward One in Lewiston, warden Lucy Bisson says some voters remain stumped.

"Just a lot of people don't understand ranked-choice voting," Bisson says. "We have to explain it and there are a lot of people spoiling their ballots."

But if there's one thing voters say is clear to them it's that there were too many negative ads on television and in the mail.

"I mean the ads made everybody crazy, made myself crazy," says Mike Pelillo of Searsport. Pelillo says even his mail carrier got sick of delivering political mailers day after day to his home address. 

"I mean, it was too much," he says. "I mean, it was just too much and it made everybody look bad with the ads."

And while the ads were often paid for by independent groups, Pelillo says the reason he came out to vote was to support candidates who will spend taxpayers' money wisely.

Originally published 6:22 p.m. Nov. 6, 2018