Stakes are High as Maine Voters Cast Their Ballots
It was a busy day at the polls as Maine voters cast their ballots on high-stakes political races as well as questions on bear baiting, bonds, and legalizing marijuana in South Portland and Lewiston. Patty Wight spoke to voters about which issues drove them to the polls.
Power outages due to stormy weekend weather forced relocation of some polling centers. In Rockland, City Clerk Stuart Sylvester says voting was moved from the rec center, to a much smaller space across town at City Hall.
"It's a little cramped here," Sylvester says. "People seem to be putting up with it as best we can."
In nearby Thomaston, generators and space heaters kept the polls open at the American Legion Hall. "Because we don't have any power, I was kind of skeptical about turnout," says Town Clerk Joan Linscott. "But boy, within the first hour we had 110 voters, and that's a phenomenally high turnout."
Linscott says she thinks the reason for the high turnout is Question 1, which seeks to prohibit the use of traps, bait, and dogs to hunt bears. That issue is of prime importance to Roberta Greenlaw of Lewiston, "because my grandson is an avid hunter," she says, "and a lot of people that I know from my background and my family, that was an important issue for them as well."
And of course the top of the ticket races are a major draw, and, in particular, the governor's race for voters like Ray Arsenault of Lewiston.
"I believe Paul LePage should stay," Arsenault says. "He's had four good years. He's tough, He's ornery. He's getting things done. Welfare reform. That's a big one. Paying back the hospitals. Another big one."
But Ericka Meyers says she's wants Mike Michaud to take the reins as governor. "You know, my life is in LePage's hands," she says. Walking out of the polls at the Lewiston Armory with her three-year-old daughter in tow, Meyers says the state needs more programs to help people find better-paying jobs.
"Me, being a single mother only working at Dunkin' Donuts on a minimum wage check is not going to make it," Meyers says. "Him trying to take away housing, trying to tear down the housing we already have: It's not going to be enough housing. If he gets another term, people that live downtown in poverty are not going to have a chance.",
Twenty-year-old Delaney Paterson who is studying to be a math teacher at the University of Maine in Farmington, says she's worried about her future as well. "Somebody who is as young as I am and trying to look out for my future, I want somebody who's going to help me," she says.
Paterson says she turned out for independent Eliot Cutler because she thinks he'll put resources into schools to strengthen education.
One issue that didn't seem to rise to the top of importance for Lewiston residents voting Tuesday afternoon was a local initiative to legalize marijuana. Most of those who spoke to MPBN expressed ambivalence.
But for Harriet Williams of Thomaston, voting has always been an important civic duty. Williams and her husband lost power and stayed with their daughter 50 miles away last night, driving back this morning to cast their ballots at the American Legion Hall.
"When I lived in Searsmont, Maine, there was a 92-year-old lady," Williams recalls. "Her name was Hat Knight. And she had an ear trumpet. And Hat used to vote, I was a ballot clerk. And she used to say, 'If you don't vote, it's your fault. And it's a freedom to do it, so vote.' And that's the way I feel."
Polls close tonight at 8:00.