Even before the light rain started to fall midday, voter turnout at the polls across central Maine was light Tuesday, although clerks said voters were casting ballots in a steady stream and several people said they were motivated to sign a petition calling for a statewide referendum on the controversial Central Maine Power corridor proposal. 

With so few municipal questions and many uncontested races, volunteers at the polls were relaxed, sound was quiet and voters had no wait time to enter a booth. 

Mount Vernon ballot clerk Pat Rawson, left, hugs June Caldwell after she voted Tuesday with her husband, Greg, in Mount Vernon.

Elaine Bridge, who has been a Manchester resident since the 1960s, voted Tuesday though she did not know what was on the ballot. Manchester did not have any municipal questions. 

“It is my responsibility,” Bridge said. “I understood what was on the ballot, and I was able to vote properly.”

Despite a lack of local issues, several voters said they were motivated to come to polls to sign a petition to get a question about the Central Maine Power corridor project on next year’s ballot.

The petition calls for a statewide referendum on the question of asking the Public Utilities Commission to rescind its vote in support of the CMP project and instead find that the proposal is “not in the public interest.” The power line proposal is a plan by Central Maine Power to build a 145-mile transmission line from the Quebec and Maine border, which will interconnect with an existing grid in Lewiston. According to Natural Resources Council of Maine, about 53 miles of the transmission line would require clearing a large area of Maine’s north woods that is currently undisturbed.

“I grew up in western Maine and this proposed corridor passes through a lot of the areas that I spend a lot of time hiking in, and it’s going to cut a wide swath through a lot of those areas,” said Winslow resident Gary Henry, who sat at a table soliciting signatures for the petition.

A longtime Mainer, Henry says that the proposal provides no benefits to the people of Maine. Henry said that while turnout was low, support for the petition was well-received by those who did come out to the polls. “There is no reason for an electric utility company to bring this line into Maine that does nothing for the people. If this were for some shortage of power that we had, it would be a different story. But it’s not, this is only to transmit the power into Maine and out to Massachusetts,” Henry said.

Fairfield residents Florian and Claudette Julia say that they came out to the polls mainly for the CMP petition as well.

“We always vote, but I really just wanted to sign that petition,” Claudette Julia said. “We don’t need it. I don’t think they’re doing us a favor. They’re not doing enough for us right now.”

But in Skowhegan, resident Darsie Couturie spoke in favor of the CMP corridor.

“I personally feel that not everybody should have a vote on everything,” Couturie said. “A lot of the land that they’re saying is going to be ruined won’t be ruined, a lot of it’s already owned by CMP and a lot of it is owned by private people. Nothing on the ballot really interested me. I just try to get out and vote every single time, because I think that it’s really important that we vote.”

Clerk Debbie Southier, who was acting as the warden for Manchester, said around 11:15 a.m. that turnout was slow, but that there had been a small burst from 9 to 9:30 a.m.

In Fayette around 10 a.m., voting turnout was light, according to Town Manager Mark Robinson. The town also did not have any municipal questions.

Candace Jackman, who has been a resident of Fayette for around 50 years, said she tries to vote at every election. 

“We owe it to the rest of the population,” Jackman said. 

She said the “big election” will be in next year.

“I will be doing my best to convince people that they should get out and make their wishes known,” Jackman said.

In Waterville, resident Jody Rich was eager to get to the polls to cast her vote for Lutie Janet Brown, a 19-year-old candidate up for the Charter Commission seat for Ward 3.

Jody Rich

“It’s my responsibility to vote,” Rich said. “I have spoken with (Brown) and she is bright and articulate. We don’t need any more old, white guys in office.”

By midday in the southern Kennebec County city of Gardiner, where the only contested race is for the District 2 City Council seat, for which Penny Sergent is challenging incumbent Amy Rees, about 200 voters had cast ballots.

Amy Dyer Kennebec Journal photo by Jessica Lowell

Amy Dyer took a few minutes out of her day to vote in the gym at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley building on Pray Street.

“When I see the outcome of the vote,” she said, “I’ll know I had my say in it. We do need to fix bridges and roads.”

Dyer is among the people who always vote. When she was in high school, she said, she voted in a mock election, and that was enough to establish the habit.

“I always vote,” she said. “You’ve got to have your say.”

Across the Kennebec River in Randolph, the flow of voters was steady but slow. In addition to the ballot measures, town voters will elect one of three selectmen. Mark Roberts, the incumbent, was running unopposed.

Kaysee Leary

Desiree Marston

Danielle Lane may be among Randolph’s newest voters. She registered to vote Tuesday right before casting her ballot, the 78th. She moved to the state’s smallest town by area just a week ago, and she was able to provide the needed documents to prove her new residency.

Lane said she supported the transportation bond, and she also voted for the constitutional amendment to allow persons with disabilities to sign petitions in an alternative manner.

“I’ve done petition gathering before, and it’s hard to get signatures from people with Bell’s Palsy or a stroke,” Lane said. “I hope this will make it easier.”

Desiree Marston and Kaysee Leary are both first-year students at Thomas College. This is the first time the two are able to vote and the pair was excited to stop by the polls in between classes.

“We saw that everyone was doing it, so we decided to stop by,” Marston said. She was able to register at a location on campus previously.

“I grew up watching my parents vote, and since this is my first election, I was excited to come out and cast a vote,” Leary said.


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