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Voter Guide for the 2023 Maine referendum election

November 3, 2023

The Maine Referendum Election is on November 7. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Brunswick Junior High School. Same-day registration is available and requires one valid form of identification (which includes a Bowdoin ID).

There are eight referendum questions on the ballot this year. The first four questions are citizens’ initiatives, which currently require a petition signed by 10 percent of Maine voters to get on the ballot. The latter four questions are about changes to constitutional amendments. The Maine Citizen’s Guide

offers more details about all of the ballot initiatives. Additionally, there are local elections for the Town Council and School Board.

QUESTION 1: Do you want to bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval?

The first statewide referendum question asks voters if some quasi-governmental and all consumer-owned electric utility companies—like the company proposed in Question 3—should not be allowed to take on more than $1 billion in debt unless they receive voter approval to do so. Voting ‘yes’ on this question would stop these electric utility companies from taking on debts of more than $1 billion without voter approval. Voting ‘no’ on this question would allow these utility companies to take on debts greater than $1 billion.

QUESTION 2: Do you want to ban foreign governments and entities that they own, control or influence from making campaign contributions or financing communications for or against candidates or ballot questions?

Voting ‘yes’ on this referendum question would prohibit any campaign financing, directly or indirectly, from foreign governments. There are more restrictions written in about intentional or unintentional compensation in other ways, like services and assistance in campaigns. It sets an expectation that radio and television stations would not air advertisements. Additionally, there is an expectation that social media platforms would delete any ads that may be found on their sites. If there is a violation of this law, the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices would assess a fine of up to $5,000. A ‘no’ vote on this question would allow foreign governments to continue funding campaigns in Maine.

QUESTION 3: Do you want to create a new power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine?

This referendum question asks voters whether they want to keep current privately owned utility companies Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant or create a new non-profit power company governed by an elected board. The new company would acquire CMP and Versant and would be required to offer jobs to current employees of CMP and Versant. A ‘yes’ vote supports creating the new power company governed by people that Mainers elect and allows the company to acquire CMP and Versant. A ‘no’ vote opposes the creation of the new company and supports CMP and Versant operating in their existing capacity.

This question has been contentious, becoming colloquially known as the “Pine Tree Power” question after the group advocating for the ‘yes’ vote. Bowdoin has hosted multiple events on this question, including a talk from economist Richard Silkman and a forum featuring experts from both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns, to help unpack the complexities of approving or vetoing the question.

QUESTION 4: Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities?

A ‘yes’ vote on this question, deemed the “automotive right to repair,” would allow access to on-board diagnostics and telematics for owners and independent repair shops, making repair technology more accessible to car owners. The Attorney General would oversee the rollout of these regulations, and citizens would have the right to sue auto manufacturers for three times the damages to their vehicle or $10,000, whichever is greater. A ‘no’ vote would oppose these changes.

QUESTION 5: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the time period for judicial review of the validity of written petitions from within 100 days from the date of filing to within 100 business days from the date of filing of a written petition in the office of the Secretary of State, with an exception for petitions filed within 30 calendar days before or after a general election?

The fifth statewide referendum question asks voters if written petitions for ballot questions should be valid for 100 calendar days or 100 business days after the date the petition was filed. The exception to this change would be petitions filed within 30 calendar days before or after a general election. This would allow the Department of the Secretary of State and the judicial branch more time to assess valid signatures when reviewing petitions. A ‘yes’ vote would change the length of validity from 100 calendar days to 100 business days. A ‘no’ vote opposes this change and instead supports the current length of validity at 100 calendar days.

QUESTION 6: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to require that all of the provisions of the Constitution be included in the official printed copies of the Constitution prepared by the Secretary of State?

This proposed constitutional amendment would require that the Maine Constitution include every provision in the Constitution in the official printed version. Technically, it would get rid of Section 7 of Article X, which prohibited the inclusion of Section 1, Section 2 and Section 5 of Article X. Section 5 directly pertains to the treatment of Native peoples on Maine land; it says, “The new State shall, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made for that purpose, assume and perform all the duties and obligations of this Commonwealth, towards the Indians within said District of Maine, whether the same arise from treaties, or otherwise.” A ‘yes’ vote would include Section 1, Section 2 and Section 5 of Article X in official printed copies of the Maine Constitution, and a ‘no’ vote would not change current official printed copies of the Maine Constitution.

QUESTION 7: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision requiring a circulator of a citizen’s initiative or people’s veto petition to be a resident of Maine and a registered voter in Maine, requirements that have been ruled unconstitutional in federal court?

This referendum question asks voters if ballot question petitions—either citizen’s initiative or people’s veto—should be required to be circulated by a resident and registered voter in Maine. The federal government has ruled Maine’s current requirement for the circulator of these petitions to be a resident and registered voter in Maine unconstitutional. Voting ‘yes’ would remove the residency and voter registration requirements to circulate a citizen’s initiative petition. Voting ‘no’ would uphold the existing residency and voter registration requirements.

QUESTION 8: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting for Governor, Senators and Representatives, which the United States District Court for the District of Maine found violates the United States Constitution and federal law?

This referendum question asks voters to remove a provision in the Maine Constitution that does not allow people under mental health guardianship to vote for governor, senators or representatives. This provision was found to be unconstitutional by federal courts. A ‘yes’ vote would remove this provision. A ‘no’ vote would leave the provision as is in the Maine Constitution.

Town Elections:

Nathan David MacDonald, Camden Reiss and Christopher Teel are all running for a three-year at-large town council seat. MacDonald is the development and community engagement director for the Family Violence Project and serves as board president of nonprofit LGBTQ+ photo documentation project, Queerly ME. Reiss is currently a mechanical engineering student at the University of Maine and a marine harvester along the Brunswick coast. Teel is a project manager at Cianbro, a local construction company, and spent over 30 years at Bath Iron Works working on business and program management.

All other town races are uncontested.


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