Maine marijuana, school funding referendums likely headed for recounts

Good morning from Augusta, where the prospects of recounting up to 750,000 ballots cast for and against marijuana legalization and a new school funding source loom large.

We dedicate today’s Daily Brief soundtrack to the state workers who will handle those recounts.

Organizers of the No on 1 effort, which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana, say they are collecting the 100 signatures needed to trigger a recount but as of Monday morning still would not say definitively whether they will request a recount. They have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to do so. According to unofficial results, the tally of votes on Election Day was very near 50/50, with “yes” votes edging out the “no” votes by less than half of 1 percent.

“That is such a razor-thin margin that it demands an accurate and verifiable result,” said Newell Augur, counsel for the Mainers Protecting our Youth and Communities PAC on Monday morning. “When there’s a less than 1.5 percent difference it’s presumed that a recount request would be defensible. … This is a major policy change and we need to be absolutely sure that the result is in fact the accurate result.”

Recounts come at no cost to campaigns in Maine if the margin on Election Day is less than 1.5 percent. Fees kick in for higher margins.

Recounting votes in referendum campaigns is rare in Maine but not unprecedented. In 2010, a recount of votes cast for and against the creation of a new casino in Oxford County upheld the less than 1-percent margin in the Election Day results. Prior to that, a recount of results of a statewide ballot question hadn’t been done for about 15 years.

If Question 1 opponents move forward with the recount, it’s possible that not all the ballots will have to be counted. State law provides that certain voting jurisdictions, such as those where ballots are counted by hand as opposed by by computerized voting machines, could be recounted in stages until the recount applicant concedes or all the ballots are recounted.

In related news, Augur has taken over spokesman duties for the No on 1 campaign. Scott Gagnon, who has been the public face of the opposition to legalized marijuana for years in Maine, said Monday morning he is stepping back, though he will continue to serve as treasurer.

Question 2 on the ballot, which also resulted in a near 50/50 split in votes, was also within a 1.5 percent difference, according to unofficial results compiled by the BDN. The Yes on 2 campaign, which sought to implement a 3-percent surtax on income over $200,000 to directly benefit public schools, bested its opponents by about 8,700 votes among more than 740,000 cast. The opponents of that measure have also taken out paperwork to begin gathering petition signatures for a recount, said Secretary of State spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski this morning. — Christopher Cousins

Democrats poised to revamp leadership team

If you were paying attention on Thursday, you saw that Republicans in the House elected new leaders. Well, they re-elected the same leaders they had last session.

Democrats will follow suit this week. Senate Democrats meet this evening in Augusta and House Democrats are scheduled to convene on Friday. Both of those caucuses will emerge with a new slate of leaders because several Democrats have exited the Legislature, stage left.

Term limited out of office were Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan.

There appear to be some contested elections upcoming, though none of the candidates are officially candidates until they are nominated by two fellow senators.

Sen. Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who was the assistant Senate minority leader for the past two years, will likely face a challenge for the minority leader post by Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash, who just won re-election after two years absent from the Legislature. For the assistant minority leader post, Sen. Nate Libby of Lewiston is rumored to be interested.

On the House side Rep. Sara Gideon of Freeport, who has been assistant House majority leader for two years, is in line for House speaker, though Reps. Gay Grant of Gardiner and Craig Hickman of Winthrop are also interested. That slate of candidates will clarify as the week goes on.

There’s also a possible shake-up in the works for the chairmanship of the Maine Democratic Party. Opposing current chairman Phil Bartlett, so far, are Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, who lost his bid to go from the House to the Senate; Diane Russell, who lost a primary bid to move from the House to Senate; Jonathan Fulford, who lost to Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau in last week’s elections; and Channa Schroff, a member of the Democratic State Committee.

Check out the full list of candidates vying to lead the Maine Democratic Party by clicking here.

The Maine Democratic State Committee will make that decision, along with elections for the rest of its slate of officers, on Nov. 20. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hit

The election’s impact on the environment: Environment Maine, the Maine League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Council of Maine will host a forum Wednesday morning to discuss the effect on last week’s elections on environmental stewardship. Several lawmakers and activists and entrepreneurs from the environmental protection sector will participate. The forum begins Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. at Bangor City Hall.

Reading list

If your candidate won, research says your spit is more manly

Studies have shown that men’s testosterone levels rise and fall in response to their favorite sports teams winning or losing. You know that if you’ve ever witnessed increased screaming and chest-bumping among men watching the Super Bowl or World Series.

As it turns out, that goes for political elections too. Researchers from Duke University and the University of Michigan collected spit on election night in 2008 and 2012 and found that men whose candidate won those elections — Barack Obama — maintained high testosterone levels that normally recede overnight. A similar study of women’s hormone levels during elections found no correlation, according to the study.

Still feeling down, Hillary Clinton voters? It won’t last, according to the study. In 2012, the anguish among Mitt Romney supporters abated within a week. –– Christopher Cousins


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.