In late October of 2009, polls indicated that Maine had a good chance to become the first state in the nation to uphold marriage equality at the ballot box. Earlier in the year, elected officials in Maine had joined their New England neighbors in Vermont and New Hampshire in passing a marriage equality law. Unlike Vermont and New Hampshire however, Maine has a citizens' veto process, so the question was put before voters.
An October 20th poll showed that Maine voters were split evenly, with 48% against marriage equality, 48% in support of keeping the marriage protections granted by elected officials, and 4% undecided. An earlier poll had indicated that 51% of likely voters would decide to keep marriage equality in place. The editorial boards of virtually every major newspaper in the state had advised their readers to vote no on Question One. Pollsters were saying "the numbers look good for gay-rights supporters."
Given that Mainers are once again going to be voting on marriage equality at the ballot box, it bears looking at what happened the first time around.. Many of those "likely voters" who would have supported marriage equality just didn't show up. And many more who ordinarily might not have been "likely voters" in an off-year election did go to the polls in order to oppose marriage equality. As a result, turnout was much higher than expected. And marriage lost.
We saw what happened in Maine. We saw how voters turned out in unprecedented numbers in an off-year election to vote against marriage equality. We know what the polls say - and we also know how wrong polls can be, especially when determining how likely it is that someone will vote. We also know what turnout can look like in so-called "safe" states for candidates. There's a lot less pressure to vote if you believe the candidates you support will win even without your help. But the issues still need you.
If you are registered to vote in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota or Washington, make sure your voice is heard on Tuesday. Make sure your vote counts. Even if you aren't registered to vote in one of the four states with marriage on the ballot, if you know someone who is, talk to them about how important their vote is.
Together, we have four chances to make history next week. Make sure you're a part of it.