With polls showing a closely divided electorate, advocates on both sides of the issue predict it will be a long night before results are known in the latest battle over gay marriage.
But gay-rights supporters are optimistic this evening, as state officials reported this afternoon that voter turnout appeared unusually heavy for an off-year election, with no statewide or national candidates on the ballot.
Says Mark Sullivan, spokesman for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, the coalition that is seeking to allow same-sex partners to marry, strong turnout “means we succeeded in reaching younger people and others who don’t always vote.”
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap originally projected that 35 percent of voting age residents would turn out at polling places on Tuesday. Dunlap now says it appears that the turnout is outpacing those projections, and could be higher than 50%.
In South Portland, heavier than expected turnout led to a shortage of ballots this afternoon, the Portland Press Herald reports.
Susan Mooney, the city clerk, had anticipated a 60 percent turnout, but the 11,000 or so official ballots began running out at about 5:30 p.m. The city clerk has responded by sending more than a thousand photocopied ballots to polling places throughout the city.
On the ballot today, Question 1, is an attempt to repeal the state’s gay marriage law that was passed by the Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci last May but has never taken effect.
Maine’s law will go into effect in 30 to 60 days if voters reject the measure.
Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.