The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

A Comprehensive Guide to Your Local Ballot and How to Cast It

On Nov. 7, Maine residents will cast ballots that include asking for their opinions on eight statewide ballot initiatives and several more questions. Here’s everything Bates students — and voters — need to know about the upcoming referendum, including what you will be voting on, who can vote, how to register to vote and where to go to vote.

 

State Referendum Initiatives On Your Ballot

There are a whopping eight ballot initiatives on the ballot — but don’t fear. Here’s a list of all of them with explanations about what is at stake. 

 

QUESTION 1:  Do you want to bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval?

If this initiative passes, any consumer-owned electric utility would need to win a state referendum to borrow more than a billion dollars. Since Maine voters would be able to approve or veto such expenditures, the initiative’s proponents argue that it will save the state from exorbitant public spending and crushing debt. This initiative is wrapped up in the politics of ownership over Maine’s electric grid and was proposed as a response to another ballot initiative—Question Three. 

No Blank Checks, the group that created this initiative, is funded by Avangrid—the parent company of Central Maine Power (CMP). Along with Versant Power, CMP currently controls Maine’s electric grid. Question Three, however, would transfer control of Maine’s power grid away from private companies, CMP and Versant, to a new consumer-owned electric utility company. Since the merger of these two corporations would cost over a billion dollars, opponents argue that Avangrid is using this initiative to challenge Question Three and maintain its control over the state’s power grid.

 

QUESTION 2: Do you want to ban foreign governments and entities that they own, control or influence from making campaign contributions or financing communications for or against candidates or ballot questions?

Following the example of states like Washington and Montana, this initiative would make it illegal for foreign governments—and the companies they own—to use campaign donations, political advertisements and other financing to influence state politics.

Foreign interference in Maine elections has been an issue in the past. Hoping to defeat a 2019 referendum that would prevent the construction of its transmission line, for example, Hydro-Quebec—a utility company owned by Quebec—channeled money into a ballot question committee  that purchased local advertising in favor of the transmission line. Opponents of Question Two, however, argue that it is unconstitutional and violates the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United

 

QUESTION 3: Do you want to create a new power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine?

This initiative would create one consumer-owned electric utility company—Pine Tree Power Company—that would control all of Maine’s electric grid. Seven of the board members would be chosen by Maine voters, while the other six would be appointed by the elected board members. Each board member would hold six-year-long staggered terms

According to its proponents, the initiative would give Mainers control over their electricity and save them money in the long run. Since democratizing Maine’s power grid is an unprecedented move, however, opponents of the initiative point out the safety in sticking with Maine’s two privately-owned electric companies, the high-costs of buying out CMP and Versant Power, the likelihood of legal fights with these two electrical companies and the uncertainty of what the final cost will be for taxpayers.

 

QUESTION 4:  Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities?

Centered in the right to repair movement, this initiative would force car manufacturers to give their diagnostic systems data to independent mechanics and repair shops, allowing them to repair any car. If this initiative passed, Maine would become the second state in the nation to have such a law, behind Massachusetts. 

Proponents of the initiative argue that this would give consumers the agency to choose where to repair their cars instead of being forced to go to car brands’ repair shops. This would encourage competition and reduce the costs of car repair. The initiative’s opponents, however, claim that it challenges the intellectual property rights of car companies. Additionally, sharing on-board diagnostic systems with third parties can be dangerous, as it can make them vulnerable to hackers. 

 

QUESTION 5: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the time period for judicial review of the validity of written petitions from within 100 days from the date of filing to within 100 business days from the date of filing of a written petition in the office of the Secretary of State, with an exception for petitions filed within 30 calendar days before or after a general election?

Unlike the previous initiatives, this one—and the remaining ballot initiatives—will be constitutional amendments. To put it simply, this amendment would give election officials more time to review ballot petitions for any irregularities such as fraudulent signatures. It would not change any other aspect of the ballot petition process. 

 

QUESTION 6: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to require that all of the provisions of the Constitution be included in the official printed copies of the Constitution prepared by the Secretary of State?

Understanding this constitutional amendment requires brushing up on Maine history. In 1875, Maine voters omitted Section 5, Article X from printed copies of the Constitution; however, it remained a part of the state’s legal code. Section 5, Article X ​​details Maine’s commitment to honor the commitments and agreements made between Massachusetts and indigenous tribes before Maine became an independent state. 

Proponents of the amendment argue that it would right a historical wrong and reaffirm the sovereignty of indigenous tribes. But since the omission of this section never changed state law regarding obligations to Native American tribes, opponents—such as Gov. Janet Mills, who vetoed it back when it was a bill in the state legislature—counter that the amendment is impractical, unnecessary and confusing. 

 

QUESTION 7: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision requiring a circulator of a citizen’s initiative or people’s veto petition to be a resident of Maine and a registered voter in Maine, requirements that have been ruled unconstitutional in federal court?

A 2022 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has made it unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment to limit the circulation of citizen’s initiatives and people’s vetoes to state residents. This amendment would change Maine’s constitution to adhere to this ruling, allowing out-of-state actors to circulate petitions for citizen’s initiatives and people’s vetoes in Maine. 

 

QUESTION 8: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting for Governor, Senators and Representatives, which the United States District Court for the District of Maine found violates the United States Constitution and federal law?

This is the third ballot initiative that will attempt to enfranchise Mainers “under guardianship for reasons of mental illness.” In 2001, a US District Court Judge ruled that disenfranchising mentally ill voters under guardianship amounts to a violation of due process and equal protection. Proponents argue that the state constitution discriminates against voters with mental illness by assuming that they are not fit to make electoral decisions. Because the constitution contradicts the 2001 ruling, they also argue that it misleads mentally ill voters under guardianship into believing that they do not have the right to vote in Maine. In reality, however, mentally ill voters under guardianship in Maine have been allowed to vote since the US District Court Judge’s order.

Opponents of the initiative, argue that the ruling’s enforcement in Maine makes amending the state constitution irrelevant and potentially harmful. According to them, getting rid of the amendment restricts the state’s ability to limit voting rights for those who suffer more profound impairments such as mental incapacitation. 

 

Other Questions on Your Ballot

Lewiston Mayor

Voters will choose between incumbent Carl L. Sheline and challengers Jonathan M. Connor, Luke D. Jensen and Joshua James Pietrowicz. They will also have the option to vote for a write-in candidate.

Sheline is a local resident and business owner who has served as mayor since 2022 and has emphasized the need for greater progress combatting substance use and homelessness. During his first term, he created the Mayoral Ad Hoc Shelter Committee and the Mayoral Ad Hoc Committee on Substance Use & Recovery to advise policy, and advocates for a local detox center, a low-barrier shelter for the unhoused and greater support for Lewiston public schools.

The Student recently interviewed Sheline about his first term as mayor, local issues and the relationship between Lewiston and Bates. Read our conversation here.

Connor, a former state legislator and local business owner, told the Lewiston Sun Journal that he would pursue “policies that go after criminals, drug dealers and enablers” in order to create a Lewiston that is “a desired city for residents and businesses” where all people believe in its promise. Connor emphasized that this will not happen in “high-crime areas.” He dreams of a Lewiston where “our streets are safe, our housing is desirable, and our public services are top-notch,” and people “see the value in calling Lewiston home.”

Jensen, who has served on nearly a dozen local committees and legislatures, including the Lewiston City Council and Lewiston School Committee, claimed that he had “more elective experience than all of my opponents combined” in a Sun Journal profile. He is the only candidate to have voted on city and school budgets. Jensen emphasized that a small tax base has led to “terrible roads, overworked first responders, insufficiently maintained parks, underfunded schools, limited recreational offerings, and high taxes,” a problem he said he would address by fighting for greater support from the state government. Jensen also said that the current policy towards homelessness “perpetuates drug addictions and lawlessness” and promised to bring “law and order.”

Pietrowicz, who has never held elected office, told the Sun Journal that his “God-given ability to forge connections and relationships” will “instill patriotic values amongst future generations.” He identified one of the most pressing local issues as affordable housing, which he will address by encouraging housing development to “enable the free market to do its job” and by advocating for “initiatives that offer housing assistance, job training, and mental health support” to help homeless people “transition to a brand new life,” according to his campaign website. He also strongly advocates for supporting public schools.

 

Lewiston School Committee

Bates students will have the ability to select representatives for the Lewiston School Committee at large, and also a representative from their local ward.

When voting at large, students will select between Matthew D. Agren and Megan D. Parks. Agren identified staffing shortages as the biggest issue facing local schools and suggested some short-term solutions like “professional teaching coaches back into the classrooms” so that schools can “provide a consistently safe and stable learning environment for all students regardless of race, religion, gender, economic or social status, and social and/or political views.” Parks said that the biggest issue was students being “not re-acclimated back to school expectations following two years of pandemic interruptions,” and endorsed existing programs like supplementing traditional discipline with restorative justice in partnership with Tree Street Youth.

Voters will also select School Committee representatives from their local ward. Most Bates students will vote in Ward 1, where Jean Phoenix Irons McLaughlin is running unopposed. McLaughlin also identified staffing shortages as a challenge facing Lewiston Public Schools and emphasized that low salaries contribute to the problem, which can be addressed by advocating for greater funding from the state.

Bates students living in Kalperis or Chu Halls; on Wood St., Nichols St. or Bardwell St.; or in other off-campus housing may vote in Ward 3, in which Elizabeth A. Eames is running unopposed for a second term. Eames, a retired Bates professor, told the Sun Journal that she supports teaching greater “respect for authority,” hall cameras and more social-emotional education. Some students, including those living in John Bertram Hall (JB), will vote in Ward 2, in which Janet I. Beaudoin is running unopposed.

 

Lewiston City Council

Most Bates students will vote in Ward 1, in which Joshua L. Nagine is running unopposed. Nagine is an environmentalist who encourages people to get into the outdoors and advocates for green policies.

Some Bates students may vote in Ward 3, in which Scott A. Harriman is running unopposed, or in Ward 2, where business owner Susan G. Longchamps and incumbent Robert McCarthy will face off.

 

Voter Registration 

According to state law, all Bates students with American citizenship are eligible for Maine residency and can register to vote in the Pine Tree State. The deadline for mail-in voter registration applications has passed, but voters can still register to vote at any time before election day by going to City Hall in person. Bates students have the unique opportunity to register in Ladd Library by filling out a card provided by the nonpartisan student-run group BatesVotes. On Election Day, all Maine voters can register at their local polling stations when they arrive to cast a ballot. For most Bates students, including students living in Ward 1 and Ward 3, that is the Lewiston Armory, next to Lewiston Middle School and across from Kalperis Hall. Some students living off campus may vote elsewhere; be sure to check which ward you live in and your corresponding polling place before Election Day.

Since out-of-state students will be registering to vote for the first time, they need to bring a valid ID and establish proof of Maine residency. Click this link to learn which documents to use. For more information visit BatesVotes’ website or the Harward Center’s website, or email [email protected]

 

Voting 

Don’t let a busy schedule or a planned trip stop you from voting! In Maine, any registered voter can cast an absentee ballot. Click on this link to request one. Requests must be sent no later than Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. (the last Thursday before Election Day). All absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 7 (Election Day). If you’re planning on mailing your absentee ballot, you should send it seven days before Nov. 7. 

For the Lewiston municipal elections, registered voters can go to City Hall (27 Pine Street) in advance of the elections and cast an absentee ballot in person at the City Clerk’s Department during weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Nov. 2 (the last day to vote absentee), the City Clerk’s Department will be open until 7 p.m. for absentee voting in person. 

Maine is also one of the few states in the country to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV). Instead of voting for only one candidate, Mainers rank all of their candidates ordinally. Watch this YouTube video produced by the Maine Department of the Secretary of State to find out more. Because of Maine’s use of RCV, it is important that voters are knowledgeable and informed about everyone and everything on their ballot. 

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About the Contributors
Lena LaPierre, Assistant Forum Editor
Lena is a sophomore from Hattiesburg, MS, majoring in History with a minor in Russian. When she is not busy writing essays or memorizing Russian grammar rules, Lena can be found reading, volunteering with College Guild and exploring Maine with her friends. Previously, Lena was a contributing writer for The Bates Student.
Maple Buescher, Editor-in-Chief
Maple is a junior from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, majoring in Politics with a minor in English. She is a member of the college orchestra, the sailing team, and the tennis and women's soccer clubs, and a devoted volunteer in the Lewiston elementary schools. She is a big fan of reading, writing, hiking, and snowball fights. Previously, Maple served as a staff writer and the Managing Arts & Leisure editor for The Bates Student. She is a regular columnist for The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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