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Stories about Maine

Citizen initiative related to government borrowing for state entities and electric cooperatives certified to the legislature in Maine

On Jan. 26, 2023, the Maine secretary of state announced that enough valid signatures were submitted for an initiative that would require voter approval of borrowing above $1 billion by state entities and electric cooperatives. The initiative is now certified to the Maine State Legislature. If the Legislature does not approve the initiative, it would appear on the Nov. 2023 ballot.

Out of the 93,000 signatures submitted by the No Blank Checks campaign, 68,807 signatures were found to be valid. In Maine, the signature requirement is currently 67,682 valid signatures. This number is calculated as 10% of the total votes cast at the previous gubernatorial election.

The No Blank Checks initiative could be on the ballot alongside an initiative to create a consumer-owned electric utility. In Oct. 2022, the Our Power campaign, which supports the Pine Tree Power Company initiative, submitted more than 80,000 signatures to the secretary of state, and 69,735 of those signatures were verified. The initiative would create a municipal consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company, which would replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant. Our Power Maine stated, “The company’s purposes are to provide for its customer-owners in this State reliable, affordable electric transmission and distribution services and to help the State meet its climate, energy and connectivity goals in the most rapid and affordable manner possible.” The campaign opposing the initiative, the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, said that the initiative would result in higher electric bills. The coalition said, “A scheme to seize Maine’s electric grid by eminent domain would create a government-controlled utility — and we would all be on the hook for the cost.”

No Blank Checks campaign said, “A proposal is being circulated that would authorize seizing the state’s electric utilities, creating billions of dollars in debt we would all have to pay off through our electric bills. The people pushing this proposal can’t say exactly how much it would cost, and they are asking us to write a blank check. Voters should know the price tag and get a chance to vote on that debt first.”

In Maine, a citizen initiative can only appear on the ballot as an indirect initiative. The initiative only goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative, and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

There were no measures on the Maine ballot in 2022. The last indirect initiative to appear on the ballot was in 2021, when voters approved an initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.

So far, there are no ballot questions on the 2023 Maine ballot. Besides the No Blank Checks initiative and the Pine Tree Power Company initiative, there are two other initiatives that have a chance of appearing on the ballot in 2023. One initiative would prohibit foreign spending in elections in Maine and is currently certified to the Legislature, and the other, which is awaiting signature verification from the secretary of state, would allow for vehicle owners and independent repair facilities access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.

If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on the submitted initiatives, they will go to Maine voters at the election on November 7, 2023.

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Signatures submitted for “Right to Repair Act” initiative in Maine

On Jan. 19, 2023, the Maine Right to Repair Coalition submitted more than 70,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to allow car owners and independent repair facilities to have access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.

The initiative targets automobile diagnostic data that is transmitted wirelessly to vehicle manufacturers. According to the Maine Right to Repair Coalition, more than 90% of new cars are now equipped to wirelessly transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information. However, this information is only available to vehicle manufacturers.

Tim Winkeler, CEO of VIP Tire and Service and member of the Maine Right to Repair Coalition, said, “If we don’t do something about ‘Right to Repair’ right now, then what’s going to happen is down the road, these vehicles are gonna have to go back to the dealerships and independent repair shops won’t be able to work on cars. Consumers are at risk of being forced to take their car back to only the dealerships, and not have freedom of choice.”

Thecampaign seeks to allow consumers and independent shops to have access to diagnostic tools and data to allow for individuals and independent shops to make repairs. According to the Repair Association, an advocacy group promoting right-to-repair policies, two states, New York and Colorado, have passed a right-to-repair bill, while 10 states, not including Maine, have active right-to-repair legislation being considered in 2023. Massachusetts was the first state to pass right-to-repair legislation in 2013, but this did not include wireless accessibility by vehicle owners and independent shops to telematics systems. In 2020, Massachusetts voters approved Question 1, which would require vehicle owners and independent repair facilities to access this information. However, a group representing automakers filed a lawsuit, arguing that the 2020 law is unenforceable because it conflicts with federal law and the U.S. Constitution and “makes personal driving data available to third parties with no safeguards to protect core vehicle functions and consumers’ private information or physical safety.” The lawsuit is still ongoing.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the group representing automakers in the lawsuit against the Massachusetts measure, said that independent shops can already get the data they need with permission and that allowing the information to be automatically accessible can be dangerous.

For the Maine initiative to be certified to the legislature, it will need 67,682 valid signatures. These signatures are validated by the secretary of state. If the valid signature requirement is met, the initiative will first go to the state legislature. If the legislature passes the initiative, it becomes law. If the initiative is not passed, it will go on the Nov. 2023 ballot for Maine voters to decide.

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Maine campaign submits signatures for initiative that would require voter approval for state entities and electric cooperatives borrowing $1 billion or more

On Dec. 27, 2022, a campaign in Maine submitted signatures for an initiative that would require voter approval for borrowing $1 billion or more by state entities or electric cooperatives.

The No Blank Checks campaign, which submitted 93,000 signatures to the secretary of state, opposes the Pine Tree Power Company initiative, which would create a municipal consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility in Maine and would replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant.

“A scheme to seize Maine’s electric grid by eminent domain would create a government-controlled utility — and we would all be on the hook for the cost,” said the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, an organization supporting the No Blank Checks initiative, of the Pine Tree Power Company initiative.

Last October, the Our Power campaign, which supports the Pine Tree Power Company initiative, submitted more than 80,000 signatures to the secretary of state, 69,735 of which were verified. “The company’s purposes are to provide for its customer-owners in this State reliable, affordable electric transmission and distribution services and to help the State meet its climate, energy and connectivity goals in the most rapid and affordable manner possible,” said the Our Power campaign.

Because the Our Power campaign submitted enough valid signatures, the initiative was certified to the legislature. If the No Blank Checks campaign has also submitted enough valid signatures, it would also be sent to the state legislature. The campaign would need 67,682 valid signatures for the initiative to be certified to the legislature.

In Maine, citizen-initiated ballot measures are indirect, meaning they first go to the legislature. The initiative only goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

So far, there are no ballot questions on the 2023 Maine ballot. If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on either submitted initiative, they will go to Maine voters at the election on Nov. 7, 2023. 

Other initiative petitions in Maine are still circulating. The deadline to submit signatures to the secretary of state is Jan. 26, 2023.

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Two citizen initiatives certified to the state legislature in Maine

On Nov. 30, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows confirmed that two citizen initiative campaigns—Protect Maine Elections and Our Power—submitted enough signatures for each initiative to be certified to the state legislature. Each initiative will have a chance of being approved by the state legislature or appearing on the Nov. 2023 ballot.

In Maine, the valid signature requirement to be certified to the state legislature is currently 63,067 valid signatures. This number is calculated as 10% of the total votes cast for the previous gubernatorial election. Both campaigns exceeded the valid signature requirement.

The Protect Maine Elections campaign submitted 67,550 valid signatures on Nov. 1, 2022. The initiative would prohibit election spending by foreign governments, including entities with partial foreign government ownership or control. The campaign said, “Our initiative stops foreign governments from spending in Maine elections, imposes new public disclosure requirements on foreign entities that engage in issue advertising, and requires that media companies disclose illegal spending by foreign powers.”

The other campaign, Our Power Maine, submitted 69,735 valid signatures on Oct. 31, 2022. The initiative would create a municipal consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company, which would replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant. Our Power Maine stated, “The company’s purposes are to provide for its customer-owners in this State reliable, affordable electric transmission and distribution services and to help the State meet its climate, energy and connectivity goals in the most rapid and affordable manner possible.” The campaign opposing the initiative, the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, said that the initiative would result in higher electric bills. The coalition said, “A scheme to seize Maine’s electric grid by eminent domain would create a government-controlled utility — and we would all be on the hook for the cost.”

Both initiatives are indirect initiatives. Unlike direct citizen initiatives, which are certified to the ballot after a campaign submits enough valid signatures, an indirect initiative goes to the state legislature first. 

In Maine, a citizen initiative can only appear on the ballot as an indirect initiative. The initiative only goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative, or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative, and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

There were no measures on the Maine ballot in 2022. The last indirect initiative to appear on the ballot was in 2020, when voters approved an initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.

So far, there are no ballot questions on the 2023 Maine ballot. If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on either submitted initiative, they will go to Maine voters at the election on November 7, 2023. 

Other initiative petitions in Maine are still circulating. The deadline to submit signatures to the secretary of state is Jan. 26, 2023.



Campaigns for two Maine initiatives submit signatures for 2023 ballot

In Maine, two campaigns submitted signatures for initiatives this week to make the ballot for November 7, 2023. The signatures were submitted to the secretary of state. If the minimum valid signature requirement is met, the initiatives with enough signatures will go to the Legislature, which has the option to approve them. If the Legislature does not act on them by the end of the session, they would appear on the ballot.

The initiatives were submitted ahead of the January 2023 deadline and before the November 8 general election.

On October 31, the Our Power campaign announced that it submitted more than 80,000 signatures to the Secretary of State for an initiative that would create a consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company to replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant.

The other initiative concerns election spending by foreign governments. On November 1, the Protect Maine Elections campaign announced that it submitted over 80,000 signatures to the Maine secretary of state for an initiative that would prohibit election spending by foreign governments. This includes entities under partial (5% or more) foreign government or control.

Sen. Nicole Grohoski (D-7), who supports the proposal, said, “I think it’s clear that special interest groups and foreign governments are spending a lot of money to influence our elections and Maine people are sick and tired of having their voices drowned out by all this money, all these advertisements, especially right now, as we wind down on election season, it’s clear that it’s time to take control of our elections and make sure that Maine people’s voices are heard.”

The current signature requirement in Maine for a citizen initiative is 63,067 valid signatures. This number is calculated as 10% of the total votes cast for the previous gubernatorial election. Signatures go through a validation process, and if enough valid signatures have been submitted, the initiative is sent to the legislature. If the legislature approves the initiative, it becomes law. If the legislature does not act on the initiative or rejects it, the initiative goes on the ballot.

Because the two campaigns submitted initiatives prior to the November 8 gubernatorial election, the current signature requirement will be applied. However, for the campaigns that submit signatures after the November 8 election, the signature requirement will change to equal 10% of the total votes cast in the 2022 gubernatorial election. 

The 2023 filing deadline for other initiative petitions currently circulating is 50 days into the legislative session, or around January 26, 2023.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said three campaigns submitted signatures. The third campaign, the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, reported collecting 92,000 signatures but had not yet submitted the signatures as of Nov. 5.



All candidates for Maine House of Representatives District 135 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Both of the candidates running in the November 8, 2022, general election for Maine House of Representatives District 135 — Daniel Sayre (D) and Jared Hirshfield (R) — completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office. 

Eighty-eight of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will hold regularly scheduled elections in 2022. The Democratic Party controls both chambers of Maine’s state legislature. Maine is one of 14 states with a Democratic trifecta.

Here are excerpts from candidates’ responses to the question: What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?       

Sayre:           

  • “Grow and diversify Maine’s economy. Through leading a national summit on educating the technical workforce, I’ve learned how to help Maine develop a stronger technical workforce and grow our Tech and Manufacturing sectors.”
  • “Provide more opportunities for Maine’s young people to build thriving careers without leaving the state by making opportunities for career education and skills training in High School, Community College and elsewhere more affordable, visible, and attractive.”
  • “Address the housing cost crisis with policies that increase inventory of housing to rent and own at prices that working-class people can afford.”

Hirshfield:       

  • “As a young person living in Kennebunk, I have a unique view on Maine’s population crises. I want to stay in Maine and build a life here. Current policies make that future difficult to achieve.”
  • “For there to be increased opportunities for young people like me to live, work, raise a family, and be secure and safe in our later years, we must play a role in developing and advocating policies that are in the best interests of every generation.”
  • “I believe municipalities and communities are the best decision makers. On most policy issues, Augusta is not fit to tell Kennebunkers how their town should be run.”

Click on the candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete a survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. Ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey.

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Maine House of Representatives elections, 2022



A three-candidate rematch in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. Jared Golden (D), former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R), and Tiffany Bond (I) are running in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on Nov. 8, 2022.

Golden defeated Poliquin, then the incumbent, along with Bond and Will Hoar (I) in 2018. That was the first congressional race ever decided by ranked-choice voting. Poliquin received a plurality of the vote—46.3% to Golden’s 45.6%—on the first count. Bond received 5.7% and Hoar, 2.4%. After ranked-choice tabulations, Golden defeated Poliquin 50.6% to 49.4%. Before Poliquin, no incumbent had lost the district since 1916, Roll Call reported.

Ranked-choice voting will also be used in the 2022 election.

Golden served in the Marines and the Maine House of Representatives before his election to the U.S. House. Golden said his record, which includes being the only House Democrat to vote against the Build Back Better Act in 2021, shows he’s a “fierce, independent voice” for the district. Golden also highlights his support for the 2021 infrastructure bill and increasing oil and gas production, federal funds he helped secure for loggers and the lobster industry, and his endorsement from the state Fraternal Order of Police.

Before serving in the House, Poliquin was an investment manager and served as state treasurer after the Maine Legislature selected him on the recommendation of former Gov. Paul LePage (R). Poliquin emphasizes his business background and has criticized Democrats for inflation, high gas prices, and what he called an open border. Poliquin said he would work to control spending, reopen oil and natural gas supplies, and “secure our border to make sure we take care of America first.”

Bond is a family law attorney who says she “isn’t distracted by the constant fundraising and partisan noise.” Bond says she agrees with Republicans on issues such as financial responsibility and smaller government and with Democrats on issues such as privacy and healthcare accessibility. Bond is asking supporters to donate to causes or spend at local businesses while leaving a note about her campaign instead of donating to her campaign.

The Associated Press‘ Patrick Whittle said that Poliquin’s focus on issues like immigration and gun rights in 2022 mark “a shift from his earlier campaigns, which focused more closely on controlling taxes and protecting rural jobs.” Whittle said Golden “has long positioned himself as a moderate who supports the 2nd Amendment and works to safeguard industries such as commercial fishing and papermaking” and was taking a similar approach in 2022.

The 2nd District is one of 13 U.S. House districts Democrats are defending that Donald Trump (R) won in the 2020 presidential election. According to Daily Kos data, Trump would have defeated Joe Biden (D) in the 2nd District as it was redrawn after the 2020 census 51.6%-45.5%. Under the previous congressional map, Trump defeated Biden 52.3%-44.8% in the 2nd District.

The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. House in the 118th Congress. All 435 House districts are up for election. As of Sept. 30, 2022, Democrats held a 220-212 advantage in the chamber with three vacancies. Republicans need to gain a net of six districts to win a majority.

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Incumbent Janet Mills (D), Paul LePage (R), and Sam Hunkler (I) are running in the general election for governor of Maine

Incumbent Janet Mills (D), Paul LePage (R), and Sam Hunkler (I) are running in the general election for governor of Maine on November 8, 2022.

Mills was first elected governor in 2018 and is seeking a second term. LePage served as governor from 2011 to 2019 and is seeking a third term. Mills is the state’s first female governor and a LePage win would make him the longest-serving governor in state history.

Mills was elected governor after serving as Maine’s attorney general for eight years during LePage’s administration. Mills also served four terms as the district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. She was the first woman elected to each of these positions. Mills says that she has worked across the aisle to deliver progress as governor and would continue to address the following issues in a second term: expanding health care, fully funding Maine’s public schools, preserving Maine’s lands and waters, and fighting climate change.

LePage was elected governor after serving as the mayor of Waterville, Maine, for seven years. He also served two terms on the Waterville City Council. LePage criticizes Mills’ performance as governor and highlights his own record, saying that his vision for Maine is “to create prosperity through a lower overall tax burden for residents and businesses; a smaller, more efficient state government that we can all afford; protecting our most vulnerable populations (our children, our seniors and persons with disabilities), empowering parents’ rights to decide their children’s future, and managing a welfare system that serves as a safety net for the truly needy – not a free for all.”

Both candidates responded to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision on abortion by clarifying their positions on the issue. Mills says, “Maine, our only chance at defending the right to safe and legal abortion will be this November at the ballot box. If given a chance, my opponent will dismantle reproductive rights across Maine. We must vote like our freedom to choose is on the line — because it is.”

LePage says, “As the child of a severely dysfunctional family, with domestic abuse that left me homeless, I know my mother faced difficult decisions and I am glad she chose life. The federal government has regularly prohibited taxpayer abortion funding, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger; and I have supported that policy and would continue to do so.”

This is one of 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022. The governor serves as a state’s top executive official and is the only executive office that is elected in all 50 states. There are currently 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors. 

Maine has had both a Democratic trifecta and a Democratic triplex since 2019. As of September 6, 2022, there are 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

A state government trifecta refers to a situation where one party controls a state’s governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. A state government triplex refers to a situation where the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state are all members of the same political party.



Five candidates file to run for U.S. House in Maine

The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Maine was March 15. This year, five candidates are running for Maine’s two U.S. House districts, including three Republicans and two Democrats. That’s 2.5 candidates per seat, down from 3 candidates per seat in 2020 and 5 per seat in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. Maine was apportioned two seats, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • Neither of Maine’s two U.S. House seats are open this year, with incumbents Chellie Pingree (D) and Jared Golden (D) both running for re-election.
  • The last time a U.S. House seat in Maine was open was in 2014, when Mike Michaud (D) ran for governor rather than run for re-election in the 2nd District.
  • Neither Pingree nor Golden faces a primary challenger; the three other candidates who filed for U.S. House are all Republicans.

Maine’s U.S. House primaries will take place June 14. Although Maine uses ranked-choice voting for primaries, the only contested primary (the Republican primary in the 2nd District) has two candidates running, meaning there will not be multiple rounds of vote-counting and whichever candidate wins the most first-round votes will win the primary outright.

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Voters in Augusta, Maine approve $4.5 million in bonds for fire and emergency services capital improvements

Voters in Augusta, Maine approved a bond measure on March 22 that authorizes the city to issue $4,455,000 in bonds to fund fire and emergency services capital improvements and city infrastructure. The vote margin was 71.2% to 28.8%. A simple majority vote was required to approve the measure.

The city charter authorizes the Augusta City Council to borrow up to $750,000 without voter approval. Anything greater must be submitted to voters for approval.

The Augusta City Council voted to refer the bond measure to the ballot on Jan. 20, 2022, by a vote of 6-0. At the same meeting, the council also approved $750,000 in bonds for rescue equipment and other infrastructure projects. The total bond project was $5.2 million.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S., all state capitals, and throughout the state of California. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities.