Progressive measures pass in Maine

For the fourth time in the history of the United States, the candidate who won the popular vote in a presidential election lost the electoral college and subsequently the presidency. Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, after winning crucial states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin, is the current President-elect.  

Yet the important stories of the 2016 election go beyond this historic upset, particularly in the state of Maine. For the first time since 1828, the state’s electoral vote was split, three electoral votes to one.  In addition, a number of progressive ballot measures passed in the state, including, narrowly, the legalization of marijuana.  This week’s edition of The Echo recaps turbulent 2016 election.

Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton won the total popular vote in Maine by approximately 50,000 votes along with the more southern, urban District 1. Trump won the more rural, northern  District 2. In District 1 city Waterville, Clinton carried 58 percent of the vote compared to Trump’s 39, according to the New York Times.  

Thousands of people, including college students across the country, have protested to show their disapproval of a Trump presidency. A small group of Colby students joined the trend this past Sunday, demonstrating their feelings on the massive changes in U.S. politics.   

Even internationally, people protested the Trump victory. In Mexico City, a group of citizens expressed their concern over a possible wave of deportations, according to The Associated Press. Instances of assault, arrests, vandalism, and disrupted traffic have been reported as a result of these protests.  

There were no US Senate races this election cycle.  In the house of representatives, though, both incumbent candidates emerged victorious. Democratic Party candidate Chellie Pingree defeated Republican Mark Holbrook in District 1, while Republican Party candidate Bruce Poliquin defeated Democratic challenger Emily Cain, according to the New York Times. Both winning candidates received at least 54 percent of the popular vote in their respective districts.  

Locally, Democrat Henry Beck ’09 fell to incumbent candidate Scott Cyrway in the 16th district senate race by about 4,000 votes. While Beck lost district cities Winslow, Fairfield, and Clinton, he was able to carry Waterville by nearly 2,000 votes, according to the New York Times.

Of the six ballot measures this election cycle in Maine, five passed and one failed. 

The most controversial referendum that passed on the ballot this election was also the closest to call in terms of voting numbers: Question 1. Question 1 concerns the legalization of marijuana in the state for persons at least 21 years of age. It allows the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance.  In addition, it gives all citizens over 21 the right to possess under 2.5 ounces of marijuana.  Governor Paul LePage has added that he will challenge the result in his state as well. 

The referendum passed by just over 2,000 votes, which is such a narrow margin that opponents have already called for a recount. According to The Portland Press Herald, a recount will take at least a month, and could cost the state $500,000. It involves recounting more than 757,000 ballots. 

Should the recount hold up, Maine would become the fourth state this election cycle, joining California, Nevada, and Massachusetts, to legalize the drug. 

Citizen initiatives go into effect 30 days after the state certifies and the governor proclaims the results, a process that takes another 30 days. With a recount, it may take until January for Question 1 to come into effect. 

The campaign manager for Yes on 1, David Boyer, said in an interview with The Press Herald that he believes a recount is a waste: “Just as keeping marijuana illegal has been a waste of taxpayer dollars, we think this recount will be a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.” 

Question 2 concerned public education. Voters approved a three percent tax increase on individuals with a taxable income of over $200,000 dollars in Maine. This increase will directly support student learning in K-12 public education. The referendum passed by over 7,000 votes. 

The rejected referendum was a proposal regarding guns and background checks. The proposal would have required background checks prior to the sale of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law. This referendum was rejected, with some concerns being the restrictive nature for hunters and recreational shooters. In addition, a negative advertising campaign pointed out how criminals would still be able to purchase firearms illegally, even with the implementation of background checks.   

Question 4, concerning minimum wage, passed with over 55 percent of the popular vote in Maine. The referendum will gradually raise the minimum wage in the state from its current level of $7.50 per hour to $12 per hour in 2020. In 2017, the minimum will be $9 per hour. 

Question 5 concerned voting methods, and passed with just over 52 percent of the popular vote in Maine. In the future, voters in the state will be able to rank their choices for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative. Now, there will be multiple rounds of vote counting, with the last place candidate being eliminated each round until a majority is declared.

The most overwhelming approval of a referendum came for Question 6, which proposed a $100,000,000 dollar bond for the purpose of construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of transportation systems in Maine. Highways, bridges, marine facilities, railroads, aviation, and bicycle paths will all see improvements, as this referendum passed with over 60 percent of the vote. 

Waterville voted yes on Question 1, by under 500 votes, according to The Press Herald. More than 7,000 people in the town voted on the referendum. Unlike the rest of the state, the city voted yes on expanding background checks, by over 1,500 votes. Less surprisingly, the city also voted yes on questions 4 and 5. Next door town Winslow voted no on all four options. 

With the election 2016 results in the books, Waterville, Maine, the United States, and the world are preparing for a radically different future in law making and representation. 

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