AUGUSTA (AP) – State election officials hope for a 30 percent turnout on Tuesday when Mainers vote on racino gambling and other questions. While the prospect of wet weather could drag the numbers down, new get-out-the-vote policies could nudge numbers up.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed it will be at least 30 percent,” said Don Cookson, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office. Turnout is relatively low in off-year elections in which no statewide or national offices are at stake.

Election officials took a new step to encourage voting by allowing three pilot communities – Portland, Bangor and Readfield – to open their polls the week before Tuesday’s elections. The early voting is in addition to absentee voting, which has been increasingly popular in recent elections.

On the downside is the weather forecast, which includes showers over most of the state and snow or mixed precipitation in the mountains and northern areas.

Besides the racino question, the statewide ballot includes three bond issues totaling $134 million, and a proposal to increase legislative term limits from four to six terms, or eight to 12 consecutive years in the House or Senate.

The first bond issue seeks $55 million in borrowing for research and development, the second seeks $43.5 million for improvements at state-supported university and community college campuses, and the final borrowing proposal calls for $35.5 million for land conservation, waterfront access and other outdoor projects.

The racino proposal drew the most interest in the weeks leading up to voting. Newly unveiled plans for a racetrack-casino across the border in New Brunswick became part of the debate days before the election.

Maine racino opponents say the Canadian facility would siphon away customers who would have come to Maine, leaving the Washington County gambling operation dependent on money from local communities.

Supporters of the Washington County racino deny that the project in Saint John would pose a competitive threat.

The exchange is in response to plans announced Friday by Exhibition Association that call for a racino with video lottery terminals, slot machines and gaming tables and a harness racing track. The project would also include a grandstand, restaurant, outdoor soccer field, a double hockey arena and a combination agricultural sports dome with an indoor soccer field.

The proposal came out in the absence of a provincial policy on racetrack casinos.

Maine’s racino question would allow the Passamaquoddy Tribe to build a harness racing complex with slots and high stakes beano.

Casinos NO!, a group that opposes the eastern Maine racino plan, said the New Brunswick proposal fulfills a prediction made in a 2005 report on economic development in Washington County.

The report includes 70 recommendations that highlight development of energy resources and industries that use the region’s natural resources. But it discouraged a racino because “it would just cause a retaliatory response from Canada,” Dennis Bailey of Casinos NO! said.

With a competing racino less than an hour away, the facility in Calais would become dependent on local Maine communities, said Bailey. The Passamaquoddy Tribe has an option on 700 acres in Calais for the racino.

Gov. William Nicholas of the Passamaquoddy Indian Township reservation said the Washington County racino is expected to draw 35,000 Canadian visitors a year, and having a racino in Saint John, which has a population of about 70,000, will not change that.

“This would have little or no impact,” Nicholas said.



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