What you need to know and where Maine races stand on Election Day

Good Election Day morning from Gardiner. Polls are open across Maine, with reports of big crowds already in PortlandAugusta and Lewiston. Here’s what you need to know and what we’re doing at the Bangor Daily News today.

Haven’t voted yet? You can find your polling place and view your sample ballot at the Maine secretary of state’s website. Polls close at 8 p.m.

Want to read more about the issues? Here’s a handy guide to the BDN’s election coverage.

Want to follow the results with us? The BDN’s results page — where we’re following pretty much every contested race in Maine down to the municipal level — is live. Results will come in from clerks after polls close. Also, you can view legislative candidates’ responses to our questionnaire by clicking their names. Our crack data scientist, Jake Emerson, runs the statistical model by which we’ll call tonight’s elections. We’ll announce calls on a Facebook Live feed run by my charismatic little brother, Sam Shepherd.

Are you a college student who wants to vote in Maine? With misleading fliers circulated at Bates College and Gov. Paul LePage’s promise — reiterated in a Tuesday radio interview — to “do everything in my power” to verify that college students voting here have established Maine residency, there’s a lot of spin about students’ ability to vote. Cut through it by reading Chris Cousins’ explainer.

The BDN’s team is out in full force today. In Bangor tonight, Chris Cousins is our point person on Maine’s presidential and legislative races and I’m your man on Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Darren Fishell, Nick Sambides and Judy Harrison will follow Maine’s five citizen-initiated ballot questions and one bond question. In Portland, Jake Bleiberg will be all over municipal elections and the 1st Congressional District race. We’re also sending bureau reporters out to polling places all across Maine to ask for your hottest takes on this election and featuring Election Day work from a large team of student journalists at the University of Maine.

Want to drink and talk politics with us in Bangor tonight? RSVP to the BDN’s free election night happy hour at Blaze downtown. The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. with a cash bar, and we’ll have a live panel discussion from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

See something untoward at polling places? Report it to us. The BDN is also among 250 newsrooms across the U.S. partnering with ProPublica’s Electionland project, which will track voting problems at the polls. To report fraud, long lines, disqualifications or machine breakdowns, text “Electionland” to 68966, or fill out the online reporting form. Maine tips will be vetted by our team and you can always email other tips to me and Cousins at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com and ccousins@bangordailynews.com.  Michael Shepherd

What are the most likely outcomes in Maine’s biggest races?

Not to equivocate, but there’s more uncertainty around this election than any other recent, big one in Maine.

The presidential campaigns of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have prioritized Maine — the 2nd District in particular — and a mish-mash of five referendum questions doesn’t give us a good idea of who is going to be most motivated to vote today.

But we have a fair amount of polling and other data in the races that give us at least a vague idea of what may happen tonight. Here’s our best stab at the big races given what we know.

Presidential: Clinton is favored nationally, but the Democrat could lose at least one of Maine’s electoral votes to the Republican for the first time since 1988.

FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 72 percent chance of winning the presidency, but keep in mind that Trump’s 28 percent chance isn’t exactly a small one. In Maine, Clinton’s chances of winning three of four electors is 83 percent.

The real heat, however, is in the toss-up 2nd District. Clinton has only a 51.5 percent chance there to Trump’s 48.5 percent after his steep September polling lead tightened in October. National eyes will be on the 2nd District, as illustrated by CNN’s plan to broadcast live from the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Maine’s 2nd District: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Nobody seems to be sure about this crucial rematch of 2014’s race between U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain, where the national stakes are high, with nearly $16 million in campaign and outside spending.

We have little polling here: A September poll from Colby College had Poliquin 5 points up and a recent poll from the Portland Press Herald had them tied, but Poliquin’s team denounced it for oversampling higher-educated voters.

The Republican won by five points in 2014 — a potentially stronger outcome than that margin indicates when you consider a conservative independent took 11 percent of votes — and may have given his party a solid footing that Trump has benefited from.

However, Democrats still outnumber Republicans here, and Cain has been banking on a different electorate in 2016 than there was two years ago. While that may happen, Trump’s rise and likely popularity in certain pockets could make it more difficult for her. It’s a toss-up.

The referendum questions: Five referendum questions and a transportation bond are favored to pass, but look at the marijuana, background check and ranked-choice voting campaigns for potential upsets.

The Press Herald’s recent round of polling had the “yes” side of Maine’s five referendum questions leading, so that’s probably the likeliest outcome.

But there were worrying signs for questions 1, 3 and 5 — marijuana legalization, background check expansion to private gun sales and transfers and ranked-choice voting, respectively.

The problem for the first two was softening support: Question 1 led with 50 percent saying yes to 41 percent saying no and 9 percent undecided, down from a 15-point lead in September, while Question 3 was at 52 percent to 43 percent, down from a 28-point in September.

Question 5 was still way ahead at 49 percent to 31 percent, a margin that didn’t move since September. What’s worrying for proponents is that past polling has shown that a chief challenge of the campaign is educating voters about it.

A September poll for the campaign also measured it at 49 percent support, but that rose to 55 percent when voters were educated about it. However, only 46 percent of respondents said they were familiar with the proposal. So, opposition could coalesce if the electorate’s understanding hasn’t improved.

Questions 2 and 4 — placing a new 3 percent tax on income over $200,000 to fund education and raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12 by 2020, respectively — look safe, with 57 percent support in the Press Herald poll. And Question 6, a $100 million transportation bond, is a virtual lock to pass.

Maine Legislature: Democrats may be favored to keep their House majority. But it could be tight in the Senate.

The BDN gave Democrats the edge in both chambers in our final legislative analysis in late October.

You can read that for a rundown of the map: The real race is in the Republican-led Senate, where we favored Democrats in 16 Senate seats to Republicans’ 12 in the 35-member body. We favored Democrats in 78 House districts — enough to keep their majority.

But that’s a list packed with uncertainty and it’s worth noting that top Democrats have become more pessimistic about their chances in the Senate in recent weeks. Part of that is because of Trump, who may actually help some Republicans in parts of the 2nd District.

The others: U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, is a lock to win her fifth term over Republican Mark Holbrook. Portland school board member Pious Ali could become the city’s first African-born, Muslim city councilor in his at-large bid against incumbent Jon Hinck, a former state legislator.  Michael Shepherd

Election Day reading list

The state of the presidential race in Maine and beyond

What to read about Clinton

What to read about Trump

Other Maine political news

I taught Martin O’Malley how to say ‘Bangor’ yesterday

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley made a swing from Portland to Bangor yesterday for Clinton. I caught him in Lewiston and when he heard the name of my newspaper, he gave a college try at saying “Bangor.”

“Ban-GOR,” he said, leading me and Lindsay Crete, Clinton’s Maine spokeswoman, to correct him with the flat pronouncation.

“Accent on ‘Ban’ and accent on ‘Gor’,” he said. “Bangor.”

To be fair, it’s a problem for many out-of-staters, so much that the region’s chamber of commerce made a video about it in 2015. So, here’s the soundtrack for the city we love.  Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.