PPH Editorial

Our View: Look out for lies in Vote No mailer

Opponents of Question 1 ignore the power line's good points and invent fears of 'gun grabbing.'

A lot of people seem confused about Question 1, the referendum that aims to kill a proposed transmission line project that would bring Canadian hydropower to the New England electric grid.

Construction crews widen the existing tract of corridor near the Wyman Dam on the Kennebec River in Bingham on Oct. 12 as part of the $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect project. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It’s not that complicated. You just have to remember that if “yes” wins, there will be no power line.

Also – and this is the tricky part for some people, so pay attention –  if “yes” wins, nobody will be coming for your guns.

That’s right, there will be no confiscation of firearms. Even if you read the text of the underlying legislation very carefully, you wouldn’t find anything about guns – just power lines. This is not a gun law.

Why would anyone think that the rights of gun owners might be at stake on Nov. 2? Maybe because that’s what a political action committee working to defeat the referendum is telling them in a dishonest messaging campaign.

The group Mainers for Fair Laws is sending mailers to select Maine households falsely claiming that “Question 1 establishes a scary precedent for gun grabbers.”

And if that’s too subtle, there’s a letter signed by former state Rep. Gary Hilliard, a Belgrade Republican, which claims “Ballot Question 1 empowers politicians and out-of-staters with a new set of tools that can be used to target gun owners.”

It’s not hard to see what Mainers for Fair Laws is up to. They are using a “slippery slope” argument, pointing out that the referendum would retroactively cancel the permits issued to the power line project. If Question 1 passes, they argue, what would stop politicians from passing new retroactive laws to outlaw other things, like guns?

And the answer is “nothing.”

But even if Question 1 loses, there is nothing in the law that would prevent a majority of legislators from passing gun laws.

That’s because Question 1 is about power lines, not guns.

Since the summer, Mainers for Fair Laws has focused on retroactivity, as if the real impact of Question 1 would be everything other than the one thing that would really be affected: the proposed western Maine power line.

The group never mentions the power line project or discusses its benefits in its literature. That’s strange, since there are plenty of good arguments for voting against this referendum and letting the power line project move forward.

Our editorial board listened to the arguments on all sides and determined that the power line would fight climate change, so we endorsed a “no” vote. Others oppose the referendum (and support the project) because it will create jobs and bring investment into the state.

All of those conclusions can be debated. But there is nothing that can be said about the gun-grabbing warning other than it is just not true.

The people at Mainers for Fair Laws must know this, but they say it anyway. That’s not a “slippery slope,” it’s a lie.

Getting caught lying to voters is usually considered bad politics. The vote “no” campaign should hope that people won’t hold this group’s misleading message against their side when the votes are counted next week.