Mainers Weigh Five Referendum Questions This November


Representative Joyce A. Maker and Representative William R. Tuell

You have no doubt heard a lot about candidates running for office this fall. While each race is its own unique contest, Mainers are also going to have the chance to weigh in on five referendum questions that have gone under the radar. Our hope with this column is not to persuade you to vote one way or the other, it’s to encourage you to look into each issue and make your own, informed decision. 

Question 1: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?

Question 1 asks Mainers if they want to legalize and regulate pot. Proponents say that by doing so the state will generate millions in additional tax revenue that could be used for schools, social services, and other projects our state needs. They also argue that our police have bigger fish to fry than marijuana, and that marijuana really helps people in pain. Opponents counter that weed is a gateway drug, that revenues the state generates will be offset by increased costs to our healthcare system, and that marijuana marketers will create a new generation of addicts at a time when Maine is struggling to combat substance abuse. 

Question 2: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?

Question 2 asks Mainers if they want to raise taxes on households making over $200,000 to fund 55% of the cost of education in Maine. Proponents contend that this referendum is an investment on our future, that it will help our kids compete for better paying jobs, that it will close the gap between richer and poorer school districts around the state, and that it fulfills voters’ intention to fund K-12 education in Maine. Opponents say that you can’t draw a direct line between school spending and outcomes, that increasing taxes on those who create jobs in our state will send them fleeing to more tax friendly states, and that more well to do schools will gain the most, while poorer schools will see some or no benefits. 

Question 3: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?

Question 3 has gotten the most attention as it requires background checks on most Maine gun sales as well as transfers. Proponents argue that it will save lives, keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, cut down on black market gun sales, and serve as a reasonable gun control measure that doesn’t infringe upon our 2nd Amendment rights. Opponents see this referendum as unenforceable, contend that the money funding it is largely from out of state interests who want to buy Maine votes, and that it makes criminals of law abiding gun owners who have hunted in the Maine woods for generations. 

Question 4: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9 in 2017, with annual $1 increases up to $12 in 2020, and annual cost-of-living increases thereafter; and do you want to raise the direct wage for service workers who receive tips from half the minimum wage to $5 in 2017, with annual $1 increases until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage?

Question 4 raises Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 by 2020. Supporters say that you can’t live on $7.50 per hour, that Mainers should command a fair wage for the work they do, and that passing this referendum would reduce strain on our social safety net. Opponents argue that the referendum is too much too soon, that Mom and Pop businesses would cut staff or close, and that young adults looking for their first job, and seniors trying to live on Social Security, would be left out in the cold.

Question 5: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?

Question 5 creates a ranked choice voting system. This means that if there are three candidates running for state office, you would rank them 1 through 3 in order of most preferred to least. If nobody gets a majority, the state would do an instant runoff until a candidate receives a majority of the vote. Proponents contend that you should have to have over 50% to win an election, that ranked choice is cost-effective, and has worked at the local level. Opponents argue that it is unconstitutional, that a full-blown runoff election is a more accurate way to get a winner, and that ranked choice voting be confusing for voters, and tinker with our most zealously guarded right – the right to vote. 

Whether you are for or against any of these questions, please research them, make sure you read the fine print, and if you still don’t know what you’re voting on, either leave it blank or vote no. If you have any questions or would like more detail, feel free to drop us a line (Joyce Maker or Will Tuell