Election Day Is Here
Today is election day, which means that tomorrow there will be new narratives to explain why Maine people voted the way they did.
If Question 1 is defeated, then the story may be that Maine is a state of rugged New England individualists who believe people should be able to make their own choices. If Question 1 passes, then perhaps Maine will be thought of as a rural, Catholic state with an elderly electorate.
If TABOR passes, well then people are obviously fed up with taxes. If it loses then obviously Maine people are tired of right-wing groups running tax and spending referendums.
Today, before the votes are cast and before one or more of these kinds of narratives crystallize in the public sphere, there's still the uncertainty and expectation of election day. We don't yet know how we'll think of our state tomorrow.
Polling referendums is notoriously difficult. The polls that have been taken may not tell us the outcome of these questions or what the narrative will be, but movement within polls does give us an idea of how successfully campaigns have been waged up until this point.
From that perspective, it seems the ballot issue campaigns have mostly turned on money and television.
Question 1 is the exception to this interpretation, and also the most heavily polled measure on today's ballot. For months, the numbers have been mostly steady and within the margin of error. (with the exception of the SMS Pan Atlantic polls, which have shown a steady advantage for the No side). This lack of movement is likely a result of the high-profile nature of this question. Most people have already made up their minds.
Protect Maine Equality has had a large monetary advantage over Stand for Marriage Maine, more television, and from what I've seen a better ground game as well, but none of the polls that have taken more than one look at the race show much movement in either direction.
On television, the No side started and ended their campaign with positive ads that could at first be mistaken for Maine tourism spots. Most of the ads have featured straight Mainers talking about why they want equality for their gay family members.
The Yes side has attempted to sow as much fear and distrust as possible about the new law, mostly on issues ancillary to the central question. Their ads have focused on school curricula and, more recently, attempted to show the question to be part of a larger, sinister homosexual agenda.
For Question 2 and the other lower-profile questions, the advantages of money and television are much more pronounced. The No on 2 campaign, which has a huge monetary advantage, has aired what I consider to be the best ad of the election, wherein Tom the tow truck driver tells us his thoughts on the excise tax while getting ready to pull his neighbor's car from the ditch. I would believe anything Tom told me, and it looks like I'm not alone. Pan Atlantic, the only firm to poll this race, saw support for the tax cut drop from 42.6% to 25.5% from October 14th to October 26th.
In Question 3, large contributions from businesses with relationships with Governor John Baldacci seem likely to have made the difference in this attempted repeal of Baldacci's school consolidation legislation. Pan Atlantic shows a six-point advantage for the No side. The No on 3 TV ad featured the superintendent of a consolidated district making the case for keeping the law.
Question 4 may have seen the biggest swing in voter intention during the campaign, likely due in large part to the funding advantage and TV ads run by the No on 4 side. I wasn't very impressed with the first two No on 4 ads, which had a lighthearted tone, but they were followed by a great ad highlighting the cuts that TABOR would necessitate and reminding voters that they already rejected the proposal once before and an ad making a strong case for the importance of local government.
The Yes on 4 side had a more limited budget and only ran a single ad, a dry but straightforward spot attempting to explain the proposal in simple terms using a whiteboard.
Pan Atlantic showed a ten point change between their two polls toward the No side. However, both Pan Atlantic and Public Policy Polling, which showed the No side with an advantage going into today used the term “TABOR 2” in their question, which makes me think they may be overestimating the opposition. Despite being a hallmark of the No on 4 advertisements, “TABOR” doesn't actually appear on the ballot. The actual question may draw more support when separated from this acronym.
Neither side on Question 5 seems to have made it on the airwaves. I'm still thinking this question will end up similarly to the last medicinal marijuana referendum.
If you haven't voted yet, now is the time.