On Friday morning, each of the five bond questions approved by the Legislature on Friday was place in its own envelope, fastened closed with a gold sticker showing the Maine State Seal. The envelopes were placed in a bowl in the Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office. Then, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills drew one envelope at a time to determine what order voters will see the questions on their ballots in November. The first drawn would be Question 1, the second Question 2 and so on.
Maine law requires the Secretary of State oversee the random selection of ballot order. The process seems like a lot of antiquated pomp and circumstance, but Dunlap said Friday that ballot order does matter.
“If you have a lot of questions, there is an anecdotally demonstrated history of ‘ballot fatigue,'” he said. “With a five question ballot, I know there’s always concern about being Question 1 versus Question 5 because of that sort of historic precedent that the further down the ballot you get, the more of a struggle it is to get voters to support you.”
Dunlap mentioned a 2005 referendum ballot, which included five bond issues worth a total of $83 million. The last bond, the only one to fail, was a measure to renovate buildings in the University of Maine system. Two of the other bonds also mentioned UMaine, though it was not the main beneficiary of funding in either of those questions.
“When you looked at the questions, the word ‘university’ kept appearing,” he said. “We suspected that what happened was everybody got to the last question and said, ‘Geez, I think we’ve authorized enough money for the university already,’ even though that question had nothing to do with the substance of the others.”
“There were some lessons there about how the Legislature drafts the question language. You can’t do it in isolation,” Dunlap said.
Here’s the ballot order for the November ballot:
- Question 1: “Do you favor a $14,000,000 bond issue to provide funds for the state’s share of maintenance, repair, capital improvement, modernization and energy efficiency projects for Maine Army National Guard readiness centers and support facilities and the purchase of land for training and to draw down federal matching funds?”
- Question 2: “Do you favor a $15,500,000 bond issue to enhance educational and employment opportunities for Maine citizens and students by updating and improving existing laboratory and classroom facilities of the University of Maine System statewide?”
- Question 3: “Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue for reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation and transit, to be used to match an estimated $154,000,000 in federal and other funds?”
- Question 4: “Do you favor a $4,500,000 bond issue to provide funds for a public-private partnership for a building project for a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy to be matched by other funds?”
- Question 5: “Do you favor a $15,500,000 bond issue to upgrade buildings, classrooms and laboratories on the seven campuses of the Maine Community College System in order to increase capacity to serve more students through expanded programs in health care, precision machining, information technology, criminal justice and other key programs?”