Alright, I know it’s an off-year as far as the election cycle goes, so you haven’t been inundated with quite as much campaign rhetoric as you’d expect in October during a big election year.
Still, there are a handful of important statewide questions that you ought to be familiar with before you dutifully head into the voting booth on Election Day. So without further ado, here’s our Election Guide for 2013.
First, some basics
If you’re not yet registered to vote, you can sign up at your municipal office up to and including the Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 5. If you’re registering, you’ll need to bring a photo ID and a piece of mail with your current address on it, but beyond that, it’s a piece of cake.
If you’re not sure where to vote on Election Day, try this link. If that doesn’t work for some reason, contact your local municipal office and they should be able to help you out. Your polling place will open sometime between 6 and 10 a.m., depending on where you live, and all polls close at 8 p.m. For other basic elections Q&A, click here.
Statewide Bond Questions
Statewide, there are five ballot questions that will need to be decided, all of which are bonds. Issuing bonds is how the state borrows money, but they must be approved by voters. The total value of all five bonds is about $182 million, including interest, but voters will be asked to vote on each bond separately.
Proponents of the bonding initiatives argue that now is a great time for the state to borrow money because interest rates are very low. Former State Economist Charlie Colgan told lawmakers in August that now is likely a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to secure historically low interest rates. They also say that each ballot initiative would be an immediate shot in the arm for Maine’s economy by creating hundreds of construction jobs throughout the state.
Organizations supporting the bonds include the Maine Mayors’ Coalition, Maine Chamber of Commerce and the League of Young Voters, among others. There has been no formal opposition to the bond issues during the lead-up to election day, though each bond did see some opposition in the Legislature from lawmakers concerned about the fiscal impact of issuing the bonds, and a belief that infrastructure should be paid for with existing revenue.
In the interest of brevity — and clarity — we’re not going to print the entire ballot questions as they’ll appear on the ballot. Instead, we’ll give you the gist of what you need to know about each question. For a statement, including interest information, from State Treasurer Neria Douglass, click here.
Question 1: A $14 million bond issue for Maine Army National Guard.
This is the first time in about 30 years that the state’s Army National Guard has been the subject of a statewide bond initiative. The $14 million would be used mostly for maintenance, repair, capital improvements and energy efficiency initiatives at armories across the state (there are 34 facilities comprised of more than 200 buildings, all about 50 years old).
Some money would also be used to buy up to 6,000 acres for a machine gun training facility, so Guardsmen wouldn’t have to ship out to Vermont or Massachusetts for training.
The bond for Maine’s Army National Guard would also free up about $14 million of federal matching funds.
Question 2: A $15.5 million bond issue for the University of Maine System.
This bond would pay for updates and improvements to laboratory and classroom facilities at all seven University of Maine System campuses, with the highest dollar amounts going to the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine, which would receive $5.5 million and $4 million respectively.
You may have heard radio ads or seen lawn signs in favor of Question 2. The bond question was supported by Maine Economic Growth Coalition, a political action committee that has spent about $128,000 supporting the bond’s passage, the bulk of which came from various education groups.
Question 3: A $100 million bond for transportation infrastructure projects.
This is the big one. The transportation bond was a top priority for Republican Gov. Paul LePage in the last legislative session. Democrats, who hold the majority in both chambers of the Legislature, supported the transportation bond, but also wanted spending for education. A tough political battle ensued but ultimately, a deal was struck, which resulted in the five bonds on this year’s ballot.
The $100 million transportation bond will be matched by $154 million in federal funds. About $44 million would be used for fixing Maine’s roads and highways; $27 million for bridges; and $24 million for ports, harbors, marine transportation, aviation and rail improvement.
Question 4: A $4.5 million bond for the state’s contribution to a public-private partnership for a new science building at Maine Maritime Academy.
This bond would support a roughly $14 million project for a facility at the Castine campus to include classrooms, faculty offices and laboratory space.
The Vote Yes on 4 ballot question committee has spent about $158,000 on print and TV ads around the state, including this ad, which you may have seen.
Question 5: A $15.5 million bond for new construction and/or renovations for Maine Community College campuses, focused on health care, machining, IT and criminal justice programs.
The biggest project funded by this bond would be a new $3.4 million building at York County Community College, which would hold classrooms, computer labs and offices, and $3.4 million for renovations at the Brunswick campus of Southern Maine Community College.
$2.45 million would fund an addition to Maine Hall at EMMC; $2.35 million for a new science building at CMCC; $2 million for lab and classroom renovation at the Hinckley campus of KVCC; $1 million for renovation at Howland Hall in WCCC; and $900,000 for renovations in Aroostook Hall at NMCC.
Question 5 has been supported by a PAC called Citizens for Higher Education, which has spent about $138,000 backing the initiative, mostly on this ad.