(The Center Square) — Maine voters on Tuesday rejected a plan to take over the state’s two largest power companies but banned foreign entities from spending money on public referendums and backed a proposal requiring automakers to open their diagnostic books to independent shops and vehicle owners.
Tuesday’s election didn’t include a marquee race for governor of other top elected offices, but Maine voters got to weigh in on eight statewide referendums ranging from control of the state’s utilities to a ban on foreign governments spending money on elections and who has the “right to repair” vehicles.
Topping the ballot was Question 1, which would require voter approval for “all consumer-owned electric utilities” and some governmental entities to borrow more than $1 billion. The measure was overwhelmingly approved.
Voters also solidly approved Question 2, which calls for banning entities with at least 5% foreign ownership from spending money to influence ballot measures or candidate elections.
Supporters of the measure argued it would close a “loophole” in Maine law that allows foreign governments to spend money on elections. Foreign entities can’t contribute to political candidates under federal and state election laws.
One of the most contentious referendums on Tuesday’s ballot was Question 3, which asked voters if they wanted to create a state-level public power company through a takeover of Maine’s two electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant. The measure was defeated.
Backers of the plan argued that a nonprofit, consumer-owned utility would deliver clean, reliable electricity at a lower cost and with local control over the operations.
Critics argued that the move would amount to a “government takeover” of their service areas in Maine, which would impact costs and the reliability of electricity. Labor unions also opposed the measure, citing the potential loss of jobs.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who vetoed a similar plan in 2021, urged voters to reject Question 3. She cited the estimated $13.5 billion price tag for taxpayers to the likelihood of costly court battles with the utilities.
But voters approved Question 4, requiring car manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote, wireless access to those systems and the data to owners and independent auto repair shops.
Question 5, which amends the state Constitution to give the secretary of state’s office more time to review petitions, was also approved, while Question 6, asking voters whether some omitted sections of Maine’s constitution should be included in official printings of the document, was also given a thumbs up by voters.
Voters also rejected Question 7, which called for removing a provision in the Constitution that requires people circulating petitions for ballot initiatives to be Maine residents and registered voters. A federal court ruled in 2020 that it was unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, voters also rejected Question 8, which would allow Mainers under guardianship for mental illness to cast ballots to vote in state and local elections.
For decades, Maine has been wrestling with the issue of allowing persons under guardianship to vote. The issue was put on the ballot in 1997 and 2000, and voters rejected it both times.
In 2001, a federal judge ruled that the state’s voting prohibition violated the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws.