- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine voters appear to be more passionate about guns, marijuana and the minimum wage than they are about the nation’s next leader.

Unofficial tallies from the Nov. 8 election indicate more Maine residents voted on four of the five ballot questions than for president, underscoring voters’ keen interest in the high-profile referendums and perhaps their frustrations over the presidential nominees, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“A lot of people looked at the presidential choices and said, ‘Yuck!’ They didn’t stay home. They came out. They just didn’t vote top of the ticket,” said Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine.

An analysis by The Associated Press indicates the greatest discrepancy was in the referendum to expand background checks for gun purchases. On that question, which was defeated, there were 13,307 more votes cast than in the presidential contest in Maine.

All told, 754,857 votes were cast for the gun control measure. That’s about 1.8 percentage points more than the 741,550 tallies in the presidential race.

That underscores the importance of the Second Amendment in Maine and the hunting tradition. Voters in the 2nd Congressional District rejected the proposal, while 1st Congressional District voters supported it.

The other referendums with greater tallies than the presidential race were legalizing marijuana for recreational use for adults (1.7 percent), lifting the minimum wage (1.4 percent) and raising the income tax on high earners to bolster state education (1 percent).

The turnout appears to be close to a record 74 percent of the voting-age population in Maine despite the fact many voters had claimed they were going to leave blank the presidential ballot, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Friday. Maine has one of the highest voting rates in the country.

David Farmer, campaign manager for Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, said the numbers confirm another strong turnout in Maine.

“Maine folks, whether they end up siding with you or not, they go to the polls and vote,” Farmer said. “That’s what we want.”

The lone ballot question with fewer voters than the presidential contest was a successful referendum on ranked-choice voting. Many voters might have left the question blank because they didn’t understand the election overhaul proposal, Brewer said.

The analysis was based on unofficial numbers tabulated by the AP. Write-in candidates weren’t included.

Some have theorized that the number of write-in candidates could be greater than usual, but only officially declared write-in candidates are counted. Most of those candidates are obscure, and the list didn’t include U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who ran for president as a Democrat.

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-sharp .

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