News Feature

Our Community
Originally published in Compass, October 27, 2011
Voter Primer 2011
Referendum Election Tuesday, November 8

Election 2011 Archive
Click here to see the full Election 2011 Archive.

by Jessica Brophy

Voters will decide on four questions on the Maine Referendum Election ballot on Tuesday, November 8. They include a people’s veto, two citizen’s initiatives and a constitutional amendment.

Penobscot Bay Press’s Voter Primer is compiled and excerpted from The Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election, which is produced for all Maine voters by the Department of the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the State Treasurer, and the Office of Fiscal and Program Review.

The state guide is intended to provide voters with information to make informed decisions at the polls. The full guide, available at www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming.html, contains the legislation behind each ballot question and a summary of that legislation, intent and content of the question prepared by the Attorney General, analysis of debt service and fiscal impact, and more. Our Voter Primer is a summary of the information in the full guide. The Secretary of State encourages voters to review the information before casting their ballots.

Also read the PBP Voter Primer through Election Day on the Penobscot Bay Press Web site at www.penobscotbaypress.com/communitynews. />

Question 1: People’s Veto

Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Laws of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?

Excerpts from the intent and content, prepared by the Office of the Attorney General: This referendum asks whether Maine voters want to reject or accept amendments to the state’s voter registration laws, enacted by the Legislature and approved by the Governor in June 2011, that repeal the existing law permitting election day registration.

The amendments enacted as Chapter 399 in 2011 eliminate election day registration and instead require a voter who wishes to register to vote to do so more than two business days prior to an election. For a primary, general or special election held on a Tuesday, that means the voter would have to register to vote no later than the close of business on the Thursday before election day. A voter who is already registered to vote in the municipality but who has moved to a new address within the municipality would still be allowed to change that registration address on or before election day.

The effect of these sections of Chapter 399 has been suspended pending the outcome of the election. Other provisions of Chapter 399 that amended Maine laws relating to absentee voting were not included in the referendum petition and thus have already taken effect.

A “YES” vote would reject the amendments to Maine’s voter registration laws and thereby allow election-day registration to continue.

A “NO” vote would accept the amendments to Maine’s voter registration laws and thereby require voters to register to vote at least two business days before an election.

Question 2: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to allow a slot machine facility at a harness racing track in Biddeford or another community within 25 miles of Scarborough Downs, subject to local approval, and at a harness racing track in Washington County, with part of the profits from these facilities going to support specific state and local programs?

Intent and content of “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Deadline and Conditions for Municipal Approval of a Second Racino and To Allow a Tribal Racino in Washington County”

The proposed legislation changes the criteria for determining who is eligible to obtain a license to operate slot machines at commercial harness racing tracks in the state, thereby authorizing the licensing of up to two additional slot machine facilities.

It authorizes the Maine Gambling Control Board to accept a licensing application for a slot machine facility within a 25-mile radius of the Scarborough Downs track in Scarborough. Biddeford is one of the communities that is located within a 25-mile radius of the center of the track at Scarborough Downs.

The initiated bill also amends the definition of a “commercial track” at which a slot machine facility may be licensed to include a track owned and operated by a federally recognized Indian tribe, provided it meets certain criteria. The locations that fit the distance criteria are predominantly within Washington County. The voters of the host community would first have to approve the operation of slot machines by referendum vote at a local election held before December 31, 2013.

The initiative authorizes the Gambling Control Board to allow 1,500 slot machines to be registered at each site.

Income from these slot machine facilities would be distributed according to a formula in existing law that calls for 1 percent of the gross slot machine income to be paid into the State’s General Fund for administrative expenses of the Gambling Control Board, and 39 percent of the net slot machine income to be turned over to the Gambling Control Board for distribution in specified percentage amounts. These include 10 percent to supplement harness racing purses, 3 percent to the Gambling Control Board for administrative expenses, 1 percent to the host municipality, and amounts ranging from 1 to 4 percent to the Sire Stakes Fund, the Agricultural Fair Support Fund, the Fund for a Healthy Maine, scholarship funds at the University of Maine and Maine Community College Systems, the Fund to Encourage Racing at Maine’s Commercial Tracks and the Fund to Stabilize Off-Track Betting Facilities.

Fiscal impact statement, prepared by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review: Current law allows a total of 1,500 slot machines to be operated in the state. The existing facility in Bangor has already been licensed to operate the entire 1,500, effectively preventing the establishment of additional facilities. This proposed legislation allows an additional 1,500 slot machines to be operated at each facility licensed by the Gambling Control Board.

Presented below is an estimate of the potential annual revenues that may be generated from additional slot machine facilities and the subsequent distribution of those revenues. This fiscal note assumes there would be two new facilities established with a total of 2,000 additional slot machines that would generate annual revenue of $34,138,824 for the State’s General Fund and $19,701,336 for various other funds. The General Fund would also receive license fees of $564,500 in the first year and $213,250 for license renewals in subsequent years. Annual state costs associated with Inspectors, State Police Detectives, an Auditor II, contracts for monitoring services and other related expenses are estimated to be $1,897,471.

This analysis assumes no significant effect on revenue generated by the licensed racino facility in Bangor or the casino facility pending licensure in Oxford. Any negative impact on the racino facility in Bangor and the casino facility pending licensure in Oxford would depend upon the timing of the opening of the two proposed facilities and cannot be determined at this time. The tax structure at the new facilities would be consistent with the facility in Bangor, with 1 percent of gross slot machine income and 39 percent of net slot machine income going to the state.

A “YES” vote favors enactment of the initiated legislation.

A “NO” vote opposes enactment of the initiated legislation.

Question 3: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to allow a casino with table games and slot machines in Lewiston, with part of the profits going to support specific state and local programs?

Intent and content of “An Act Regarding Establishing a Slot Machine Facility”: This initiated bill authorizes the Maine Gambling Control Board to license one additional slot machine facility or casino that meets applicable criteria within a qualifying host municipality. The city of Lewiston is the only municipality in Maine that meets these criteria. The facility would be allowed table games.

The initiated bill exempts a slot machine facility or casino in Lewiston from the restriction in existing law that prohibits the Gambling Control Board from issuing a license for a facility located within 100 miles of another licensed slot machine facility. The bill also repeals the statewide limit on the number of slot machines and provides that a slot machine operator may not operate more than 1,500 slot machines at any one slot machine facility.

Forty percent of the net slot machine income from a facility licensed under this initiated bill would be turned over to the Gambling Control Board for distribution in specified percentage amounts, ranging from one half of one percent to three percent, to approximately 28 different state and local entities and programs. These include a variety of economic development and transportation initiatives, as well as programs for energy conservation, water quality improvement, tourism, college scholarships, agricultural fairs, meals on wheels, home-based care for the elderly, humane societies, veterans and other charities, and funds for unrestricted use by Lewiston, Auburn and Androscoggin County. One percent of the gross slot machine income would be paid into the State’s General Fund for administrative expenses of the Gambling Control Board.

Fiscal impact statement, prepared by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review: This initiated bill would allow the Gambling Control Board to accept applications for licenses to operate additional slot machine facilities in Maine. Current law allows for a total of 1,500 slot machines to be operated in the state. Although this proposed legislation would open the licensing opportunity to multiple facilities with up to 1,500 slot machines per facility, specific limiting criteria in the proposed language would make it highly unlikely that more than one new facility would be possible.

Presented below is an estimate of the potential revenues that may be generated from one new slot machine facility and the subsequent distribution of those revenues. This fiscal note assumes one new facility would be established with 1,000 slot machines that would generate annual revenue of $6,534,000 for the State’s General Fund and $20,908,800 for various other funds. The General Fund would also receive license fees of $414,500 in the first year and $188,250 for license renewals in subsequent years.

This analysis assumes no significant effect on revenue generated by the licensed racino facility in Bangor or the casino facility pending licensure in Oxford. Any negative impact on the racino facility in Bangor and the casino facility pending licensure in Oxford would depend upon the timing of the opening of this proposed facility and cannot be determined at this time. The tax structure at the new facility would be 1 percent of gross slot machine income and 40 percent of net slot machine income.

A “YES” vote favors enactment of the initiated legislation.

A “NO” vote opposes enactment of the initiated legislation.

Question 4: Constitutional Amendment

Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the years of redistricting the Maine Legislature, congressional districts and county commissioner districts after 2013 from 2023 and every 10th year thereafter to 2021 and every 10th year thereafter?

Intent and content of “Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Change the Schedule for Redistricting”: This proposal would amend Maine’s Constitution to more closely align the time frames for reapportioning electoral districts for federal, state and county offices with the federal census. It would also make the process for reapportionment of congressional and county commissioner districts part of the Constitution.

Maine’s Constitution currently provides that legislative districts must be reapportioned based on census data every 10 years, starting in 1983. This means that redistricting occurs in the third year after the federal decennial census. The proposed constitutional amendment would move the year of redistricting up to the first year following the census, meaning that redistricting based on the 2020 federal census would be accomplished in 2021 (instead of in 2023) and every 10 years thereafter. All other aspects of reapportionment for legislative districts would remain as currently written in the Constitution.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court would retain authority to hear any challenge to the constitutionality of a reapportionment plan under this amendment.

A “YES” vote approves the constitutional amendment.

A “NO” vote disapproves the constitutional amendment.