Last week’s Nov. 6, 2018 election turnout was high almost everywhere. Hope was no exception; 951 people voted, a record for non-presidential elections. The Portland Sunday Telegram reports (p. A13) that Hope’s 80 percent is second highest among Maine’s 432 towns and 23 cities. The nearest local town was Union at 74 percent.
Good show, but look a little deeper. Hope is always the local winner and at or near the Maine top in voter turnout. How to explain this persistent phenomenon?
Are Hope folks that much more virtuous than people in Maine’s other towns and cities? We’d like to think so, but, more likely, it’s because people come for the Hope Historical Society’s ladies’ food sale, to see what folk art Florance Merrifield has made, what books Hope Library is auctioning off and to socialize.
When the doors opened at 8 a.m., voters flowed in. Just as a museum forces exit through the gift shop, they exited through a spectacular exhibit of food produced by the ladies of Hope Historical Society, of handicrafts produced by Florance Merrifield, of books being auctioned by Hope Volunteer Library, and of a Death With Dignity petition.
Folks socialized, and, outside the voting room, could talk politics. Scholars speculate that this is how Hope builds community and achieves its consistently spectacular, high voting turnout.
Hope’s Historical society and library are completely self-sufficient, not dependent on Hope taxpayers at all. Election food and handicraft sales and auctions are important sources of money for both. This year, Hope Historical netted $1,050.25 and the library — the lowest-budget library in the state — $105.75 from its book auction.
In 2010, Hope long-time Clerk and Tax Collector Florance Merrifield retired and took up handicrafts — quilts, pot holders, dish cloths, kitchen towels, scarves — in a big way. The craft table sold out, netting $188.91. The stunning, king-size, schoolhouse quilt brought $293 in a raffle won by Dottie Wright, Hope.
Despite the enormous size of the spread, the food sold out, too, to the last Hope apple, peach chutney and Becca Swan focaccia. The library auctioned its books. Winners were Karissa Beverage Leeper, Hope, (Greek Myths) and Ken Sargent, Hope, (Leonardo da Vinci). The available Death With Dignity petitions were filled. And a stronger community was built.