On Election Day, all eyes will be looking toward Ohio to see if the Buckeye state’s vote will sway the balance in the 2012 Presidential Election. But beyond the Presidential Election, Maine could take center stage in both the U.S. Senate and Question 1 referendum, which asks voters if they would overturn a 2009 ballot measure that banned same sex marriage.
“Maine would be the first state in the country where by people’s referendum, a state would legalize same sex marriage,” said Amy Fried, professor of political science at the University of Maine, at a lecture on Thursday titled “The Stakes of the 2012 Elections: Maine and the Nation.”
“It’s been quite amazing, the effort that EqualityMaine — a pro same sex marriage group — has put into the election,” Fried said. “They really started working on this a couple of years ago, having long conversations with people to convince them.”
The most recent poll by Critical Insights has support for same sex marriage at 55 percent, with opposition at 42 percent. The only result that matters, however, is the one on Election Day.
“As it always is, it depends on who shows up to vote,” Fried said.
While voters will decide between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Tuesday, the success of the victor could rely on the result of the U.S. Senate seat from Maine. After Olympia Snowe announced her retirement from the Senate, the seat is being contested by Cynthia Dill (D), Angus King (I) and Charlie Summers (R).
The most recent polling shows Angus King having a 13-point lead over Charlie Summers. Projections show that King, who is an Independent, would have the deciding vote in the U.S. Senate: 50-49-1.
“Politicians are fond of saying this is the most important election in our lifetime,” Fried said. “This election is one of the few that is actually crucial, and will change the direction of our country either way.”
After the 2010 elections in Maine, the Republicans took control of the State Senate, House and Governorship. Fried discussed some of the policy shifts that might occur under continued Republican control.
“Going forward, if the Republicans remain in control, we will see a newfound energy to achieve a legislative agenda, including a voter ID law.”
Voter ID laws have been implemented in some form by 30 states and require identification to vote in county, state and federal elections. Supporters of the law say that it cracks down on voter fraud. Opponents of the law note that election fraud happens so invariably that the effects of requiring people to get a license to vote decreases voter turnout.
“It’s one of those laws that makes sense until you implement it. People who rent houses, [are] younger, and are [of a] minority are disproportionately affected,” Fried said.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Students who live on campus can vote in the Multi-Purpose Room in the Memorial Union. Students living off campus may vote at either the Orono Municipal Building or Birch Street School, depending on where they live.
Voters who are not pre-registered can register at the poll, but need to bring a picture ID and a piece of mail from their local address.