- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Mainers have approved a major overhaul in the way elections are conducted.

State residents on Tuesday approved a ballot question that will allow voters to rank their choice of candidates.

Maine voters also decided to give the state’s lowest wage earners a raise. And they approved a proposed $100 million bond issue for transportation projects.

Under the voting measure, known as ranked-choice voting, ballots are counted at the state level in multiple rounds. Last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by a majority.

The voting style will apply to races for U.S. senate, U.S. representative, governor, state senate and state representative.

Three other referendum questions were too close to call. They were:

-Whether to make marijuana possession and use legal for adults older than 21.

-An initiative that would add a 3 percent tax for residents who make more than $200,000 per year. The additional money would be used to support public education.

-A gun control question that would require background checks before the sale or transfer of firearms between people who aren’t licensed dealers.

Here are some details about all of the referendums:

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TOO CLOSE: GOING TO POT?

Is Maine going to pot?

Residents voted on a ballot question that asked if they wanted to make marijuana legal for people who are older than 21.

The proposal, which attracted national attention, would allow the state to cultivate, manufacture, distribute, test and sell marijuana and marijuana products. Marijuana would be taxed at 10 percent and subject to local restrictions.

Parents’ groups and some law enforcement organizations opposed the proposal. It also received scrutiny from members of the medical marijuana community, who fear it would replace the state’s medical program.

The statewide approval being sought follows votes to legalize pot at the city level in Portland and South Portland in recent years. The city of Lewiston shot down a similar proposal.

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APPROVED: HIKING MINIMUM WAGE

Voters decided to put more money in the pockets of the state’s lowest wage earners.

A ballot question called for the hourly minimum wage to increase from $7.50 to $12 by 2020. It was approved.

The raise will come in installments. The minimum wage is set to increase to $9 next year and then go up $1 annually until it reaches $12 in 2020. The proposal also includes benefits for tipped workers.

Supporters and opponents of the referendum were divided about whether the expense would penalize small business owners. Michael Landgarten, who owns three restaurants in the state, said the pay raise is overdue.

“Anyone who works 40 hours a week should make a living wage,” he said. “That’s an employer’s responsibility.”

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TOO CLOSE: BACKGROUND CHECKS

Voters considered a ballot question that would create new requirements for background checks for people who buy firearms.

The new law would require the checks before the sale or transfer of firearms between people who are not licensed as firearms dealers. Failure to do so would be punishable by law. Some exceptions include family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions and shooting range activities.

Proponents said the change would close a loophole in state gun laws. Opponents contended that it was an unnecessary restriction bankrolled by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His nonprofit donated millions to the drive.

The National Rifle Association of America campaigned against the law.

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APPROVED: A NEW WAY OF VOTING

Residents voted on a ballot question that promised to bring the ranked choice style of voting, also known as “instant runoffs,” to the state. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank multiple candidates on the ballot. Ballots are then counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by a majority.

Supporters have said the change would give voters more voice. Skeptics have described the system as potentially slow and confusing.

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TOO CLOSE: HIGH EARNERS’ TAX

Voters considered whether the state’s highest earners would pay an extra 3 percent tax to support public education.

The tax would be on individual taxable incomes above $200,000. The fund’s purpose would be to provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade in public schools.

Supporters said the fund would raise $157 million per year.

Critics of the proposal included Republican Gov. Paul LePage and his Democratic predecessor, John Baldacci. They said a new tax would hurt the economy.

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APPROVED: TRANSPORTATION FUNDS

Maine residents approved a $100 million bond issue for transportation-related projects. The money will pay for projects such as construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges.


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