The quickly approaching Nov. 8 ballot has four questions, representing several diverse issues and both citizen-initiated and legislature-initiated measures.

Question 1 is the people’s veto to stop the elimination of election day voter registration. The wording of people’s vetoes can be tricky. In this case, a “yes” vote on Question 1 would allow Maine people to continue to register to vote on election day, while a “no” vote would push back the deadline to the Thursday beforehand.

Questions 2 and 3 both would expand casino gambling in Maine. A “yes” vote on 2 would allow a new racino in or near Biddeford and another in Washington County, while passage of Question 3 would allow a new casino in downtown Lewiston.

Question 4 is a constitutional amendment that was sent to voters by the Legislature. If passed, it would require that future congressional redistricting plans be passed with a two-thirds majority.

Question 4 got a bit of attention during the recent redistricting fight, which was contentious but eventually ended with the kind of compromise the new measure seeks to mandate. We’re not likely to see a heated debate on the issue in the weeks before the election.

Question 1 (which I support both personally and professionally) has so far been fought mainly in the media, and garnered particular attention during the successful signature gathering process and during the ultimately unsuccessful attempts by Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Republican Party head Charlie Webster to find evidence of organized voter fraud. Neither side of the issue has paid for much campaign advertising at this point, but there will likely be at least some spending from both sides before the 8th.

According to campaign finance reports, one group working in support of Question 2 dwarfs all other organizations working both for and against the two gambling questions in money spent so far.

Putting Maine to Work has spent more than $722,000, including on radio and television advertising and on a significant campaign work force and canvassing operation. Most of the money has come from Ocean Properties Ltd, the major investor in the proposed Biddeford casino.

The campaign has hired a diverse team of advisers. Reports show expenditures to a wide range of individuals and firms for campaign consulting services, including to Democratic operative Toby McGrath, who previously managed the Obama campaign in Maine and the most recent anti-TABOR campaign. Also on the payroll is the firm of Christie-Lee McNally, a former executive director of the Maine Republican Party.

In contrast, the four anti-casino organizations contesting Question 2 have spent less than $100,000 so far, combined, and most of that has come from a PAC called Penobscot County for Table Games and Jobs, a group formed to promote the interests of Hollywood Slots, which is running a local referendum in order to allow table games at its own gambling establishment in Bangor.

Putting Maine to Work has had the most consistent presence on the airwaves of any of the campaign groups so far. Even I’ve heard its ads, despite watching most of my TV through Netflix and having my radio mostly tuned to MPBN.

I also got a visit from a Yes on 2 door-to-door canvasser over the weekend. While he wasn’t exactly committed to the cause, having been recruited off craigslist, he had a good spiel, focused entirely on job creation (a purported advantage that’s heavily contested by their opponents). He was also nice enough to demonstrate its iPad-based interactive voter ID and contact system.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Putting Maine to Work’s communication strategy, at least in southern Maine, is the complete focus on only the Biddeford-area part of the question. Nowhere in the material delivered to my door is Washington County even mentioned. The canvasser also was unaware of the provision for a second racino. I’d be interested to know if it has a different and distinct communications strategy in northern and eastern Maine.

So far, Putting Maine to Work is the loudest voice, but look for others to join the campaign chorus over the next three weeks.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie. He writes the Tipping Point blog on Maine politics at DownEast.com, his own blog at MainePolitics.net and works for the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine People’s Resource Center. He’s @miketipping on Twitter. Email to [email protected]


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