Recount hopes of anti-pot campaign are going up in smoke

A tally board created by the Yes on 1 campaign

A tally board created by the Yes on 1 campaign

Last month I noted that it would be nearly impossible for the referendum recount attempts on Questions 1 and 2 (to legalize marijuana and tax the wealthy to fund education, respectively) to change the outcome of either of those successful citizen initiatives.

The No on 2 folks seem to have come to the same conclusion and they abandoned their recount before it began.

The No on 1 campaign went ahead with their recount (as is their legal right with such a close election), but a week and a half in and after a quarter of the votes have now been counted, it is now even more abundantly clear that the outcome will not change.

According to unofficial numbers compiled by the Yes on 1 campaign (the Secretary of State’s office won’t release data until the recount has been completed), 24% of ballots had been reviewed as of yesterday morning and the No side has seen a net gain of just 81 votes. That’s about a .044% shift and far less than the 4,073 votes (.54% of the total) that the No side would need to gain to erase their electoral deficit.

This preliminary result is not surprising. The average shift in a statewide recount, based on results in other states, is around .03%. For the No side to prevail they would have to uncover some kind of massive systemic error or fraud. No such issues have emerged.

No love seems to be lost between the two campaigns, and they’ve continued to snipe at one another on social media and in press releases. Legal marijuana proponents have been quick to note when the anti-legalization campaign has failed to bring enough volunteers to staff the recount and a No spokesman has complained that Yes representatives are challenging ballots unfairly, including ones where voters filled-in the “o” in the word “No” instead of filling in the oval next to it.

Dozens of state employees and campaign volunteers may continue to gather every day for the next few weeks to review ballots, but at this point it’s primarily a theatrical production. The possibility of a change in the result, already infinitesimal, will likely only continue to shrink.

It may take longer to come into effect than the other referendums, and questions remain about whether and how the Trump administration will choose to apply federal statutes, but recreational marijuana will almost certainly soon be legal under Maine law.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.