Election officials must rethink utility referendum wording

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Maine’s supreme court ordered election officials to come up with new wording for a statewide referendum aimed at dismantling the state’s largest private electric utilities and replacing them with a new entity that would answer to voters.

The secretary of state approved the wording for the November ballot question asking Mainers if they want to create a “quasi-governmental power company” governed by an elected board to supplant existing utilities. Supporters of the proposal wanted it to be called a “consumer-owned utility,” wording the secretary of state said was misleading.

In its decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Monday did not impose specific wording but ruled most voters would be confused by the reference to a quasi-governmental power company.

Our Power Maine, which led the petition drive to put the measure on the ballot, contends poor performance and high electric rates warrant shuttering Central Maine Power and Versant Power and replacing them with an new entity called Pine Tree Power.

Critics say three’s no guarantee that prices would drop – and that they could grow. They said it would cost at least $13.5 billion to buy the utilities and that there would be protracted litigation.

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