When Mainers head to the polls on Nov. 2 to vote, they’ll be faced with three ballot questions. As a former Maine Secretary of State, I know that these questions can sometimes be confusing; it can be hard to understand what a “yes” vote and a “no” vote really mean. This year, the question most people have asked me about is Question 1. At its core, Question 1 is about whether Mainers want the so-called CMP transmission corridor to move forward. I know it’s been confusing for many people, so I want to take some space to give you more information that will hopefully help you make your decision come Election Day.
First, I want to explain how this question got on the ballot. In Maine, registered voters can follow a process to place proposed laws on the ballot for their fellow citizens to vote on. The Secretary of State helps the petitioner draft language for their proposed law, and the petitioner then has 18 months to collect enough signatures from registered Maine voters to get the question on a statewide ballot.
If the petition qualifies, the Secretary of State is legally required to word the question on the ballot in the way the petitioner wanted, as long as it conforms with Maine law. Before the language is finalized, the public is given the opportunity to comment, which unfortunately most people are not aware of. Question 1 went through this process earlier this spring, and members of the public submitted 119 comments. The language was then finalized to be printed on ballots.
Much of the confusion and frustration that has been shared with me is centered on the fact that if you want the corridor you should vote “no,” and if you don’t want the corridor you should vote “yes”.
This is how Question 1 will appear on your ballot: “Do you want to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the Legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land?”
If you vote yes on Question 1, you’re voting to ban electric transmission lines in the upper Kennebec region, which includes banning the corridor. A vote of yes also means the Legislature will be required to approve, by two-thirds vote, any projects like it that use public land retroactively to 2014. This retroactivity piece has become a very controversial part of Question 1, as we’ve seen on the TV ads ad nauseam.
If you vote no on Question 1, you're voting to allow electric transmission lines in the upper Kennebec region and to allow the CMP corridor to move forward. It also means the Legislature will not be involved by having to approve by a two-thirds vote any similar projects using public land dating back to 2014.
Whether you support the corridor or oppose it, I hope the information I’ve provided here will help you cast your vote in the way you intend to. If you still want to learn more about the question and its consequences, there are several nonpartisan sources of information available to you. This includes the Secretary of State’s Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum, which is available online at maine.gov/sos. Newscenter Maine, the League of Women Voters of Maine and the Portland Press Herald are among the other organizations trying to provide balanced and accurate information about what the question will do.
However you vote in the end, I hope you will get out and make your voice heard this year. In addition to the ballot questions, there are many local elections taking place all over the state. Maine has a record of high voter turnout, and it’s a tradition we should all continue. Don’t forget that Maine has same-day voter registration, so if you’ve recently moved or decide to vote at the last minute, you can register right at your polling place as long as you bring proof of ID and proof of address. You can find more information about Maine elections by visiting the Secretary of State’s website at maine.gov/sos. <