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Politics

Maine Voters Turn Out In Force To Decide Party Primaries, Vaccination Referendum

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Joe Amon
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Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
Ed Callahan, a local poet, talking with friends before getting into the building to vote on Super Tuesday at the Kittery Community Center on March 03, 2020 in Kittery, Maine.

With the polls closing in a couple hours, it looks like today’s election in Maine will be marked by strong turnout. Voters seem equally interested in the party primaries and a debate over vaccination in the schools.

In the southern Maine town of Arundel, it didn’t hurt that the sun was shining and the temperature rising well above 55 degrees. In midmorning, town clerk Emily Nedeau tended to what she says was a very steady drumbeat of residents coming into the firehouse to vote.

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Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
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Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
Courtney Enos-Robertson with her 4-year-old daughter Oswin, or "Winnie," as she is called, as they get ready to vote on Super Tuesday at the Kittery Community Center on March 3, 2020, in Kittery, Maine.

Nedeau says a surprising number of unenrolled, independent voters were seeking to enroll in a party so they could vote in the presidential primary.

“A lot of new enrollments and a lot of party changes. It’s all types, all ages, a lot of people coming in as an independent and enrolling in a party. I feel like they are swaying toward the Democratic,” she says, confirming that’s where the action is.

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Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
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Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
Courtney Enos-Robertson is watched by her 4-year-old daughter Oswin, or "Winnie," as she is called, as she votes on Super Tuesday at the Kittery Community Center on March 3, 2020 in Kittery, Maine.

Clerks in other municipalities reported robust party enrollments as well. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, on a tour of polling stations around Maine, noted this is the first primary in decades that has offered Maine voters a chance to weigh in at the presidential level without having to attend a caucus.

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Credit Fred Bever / Maine Public
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Maine Public
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in Arundel on Super Tuesday.

“A lot going on today, and turnout shows it,” he says.

Dunlap says voters’ active interest in a ballot question on vaccination issues is getting them to the polls as well.

“This one in particular seems to cut across every demographic line. There’s no center, if you will. You have conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats linked arm-in-arm on both sides of the issue,” he says.

For some voters, like Hilary Trickett of Machias, vaccination was the only issue.

“Yes or no on Question 1 is what I came out for today. I am actually not registered Democrat or Republican so that’s actually all I was voting on today,” she says with a laugh.

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Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
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Connecticut Public Radio/NENC
Four-year-old Oswin, or "Winnie," as she is called, slides in the ballot of her mother, Courtney Enos-Robertson, as they vote on Super Tuesday at the Kittery Community Center on March 3, 2020, in Kittery, Maine.

But many voters, such as Bruce Canterbury of Portland, say they would have turned out no matter what or who was on the ballot.

“It’s important to come out, it’s important to vote, it’s important to be counted and to register,” he says. “I certainly would love 100% turnout.”

That may be unlikely, but Dunlap says he does expect that turnout will rise significantly above the low of 15% he was predicting.