STATE AND COUNTY REFERENDA
Yes on State Question 1: Same-day voter registration
In the last legislative session, Republicans pushed through a change to voter-registration requirements that eliminated same-day voter registration. Their initial claim was that municipal clerks were overworked; the clerks disagreed. Then they claimed fraud was a danger, but failed to find any actual evidence. Then they got closer to their real objection, admitting that they are concerned about votes cast by students and people who have just moved to town. That's xenophobic partisan politics, and should be rejected. Not to mention that this hurts the poor and the elderly — hardly small contingents in Maine. The Constitution and longstanding New England tradition are clear: If you live in town on Election Day (or Town Meeting Day) — no matter if you arrived yesterday or four generations back — you get to cast a vote.
No on State Question 2: Two new slot parlors
No on State Question 3: One new casino
Let's take these together. Maine has yet to determine if gambling is really a plus or a minus. The sole existing slot parlor has been running without competition; its first real challenger, the casino we approved last year, hasn't even opened yet. And already the gambling industry is trying to expand, asking for two new slot-machine parlors (one in Biddeford and one in Washington County, neither necessarily anywhere near a harness-racing track) and a full-on casino in Lewiston, roughly 20 miles from the first one's Oxford construction site. We shouldn't open the floodgates until we understand what, exactly, will flow our way once they're open.
Yes on State Question 4: Redistricting schedule change
This would amend the state constitution to require redistricting of legislative, congressional, and county-commission districts happen sooner after US Census results are released every decade. With the 2010 Census, results came out in late 2010 and early 2011. At present, Maine would typically take until 2013 to rejigger districts — except that the federal courts stepped in and ordered us to act more quickly to adjust representation based on population distribution. This would not only extend compliance with the federal ruling into the future, but is also a common-sense move in a time when new data is quickly available and can be acted on. And it won't hurt to light a fire of change under lawmakers who might otherwise just preserve their own jobs for another couple years.
No on County Question: Civic Center renovation
It's fair to say we're conflicted about what to recommend on this. On the one hand, there's the desire to spruce up the ugliness and dysfunction of a business-arts-entertainment engine that at least in some ways functions as a hub of the downtown area. On the other hand, there are the taxpayers and their shrinking supply of dollars. On the one hand, there's its focus on drawing people into Portland. On the other, there's the fact that the tab is paid by people as far away as Harrison. In any case, taxpayers at present subsidize the operations of the Cumberland County Civic Center to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year. The $33 million bond to make it look nicer outside and work better inside (more loading docks for traveling acts; better facilities for the Portland Pirates hockey team; more concession space) would deepen the financial commitment of the county's populace. But given that it's no sure thing that the fix-up will generate enough revenue to pay for itself (much less cover the regular annual shortfall), we think voters should reject it this time. Over the next two years there should be a serious study of whether a private solution might be better. If the answer is no, then this issue could be reconsidered.