Questions on alcohol in Tisbury and wastewater in Oak Bluffs top a bevy of statewide ballot issues facing Island voters, as voting for the 2022 midterm elections has begun on Martha’s Vineyard.

Polls opened for early voting in all six Island towns Saturday, Oct. 22 and will continue through Nov. 4. Town clerks said that they have seen a steady stream of early and mail-in voters, although the numbers are not on pace to match early voting in the 2020 elections, which saw unprecedented early turnout for the presidential election during the pandemic.

In Tisbury, for instance, 112 people have voted early, according to town clerk Hillary Conklin. In 2020, 572 people had voted early five days into the election.

In addition to four statewide ballot questions, voters in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs face town-specific, back-of-the-ballot questions that focus on alcohol and wastewater respectively.

Tisbury’s question five would allow restaurants with liquor licenses to serve alcohol without meals until 11 p.m. A simple majority of “yes” votes is needed to pass the measure, which modifies an existing town bylaw.

A full generation has grown to voting age since the historically dry town first began considering alcohol sales, at the request of local business owners, in 2004. The topic was instantly polarizing: A split select board refused to touch the proposed beer and wine measure without a citizen petition, and furious debate ensued over the following years.

“[T]he arguments went round and round like a drunk in a revolving door,” reported the Gazette, as the first vote neared in 2008. “Either restaurant sales of beer and wine would encourage more people to spend their money in Tisbury instead of Oak Bluffs or Edgartown, or would drive families away. Either they would lead to social ills like public drunkenness, or lead to greater sobriety, because people would drink responsibly with their meals.”

So persuasive were the points on each side of the argument that the 2008 voters deadlocked, 690-690, a tie that was confirmed by a hand recount.

A year later, however, Tisbury residents voted 881-747 in favor of allowing beer and wine on condition that alcoholic beverages be served only with food, in restaurants with at least 30 seats and no later than 11 p.m.

A second campaign began in 2016 to allow all alcoholic beverages to be served under the same conditions, sparking further debate but passing in 2017.

Town administrator John (Jay) Grande told the Gazette this week he believes that Tisbury voters have come to see that the town is handling its liquor licenses appropriately.

“In these intervening years, there’s a growing comfort level with the structure that we have,” he said, noting that the town licenses restaurants but not bars.

There’s also a strict cap of 19 licenses allowed by town law, although not all of them have been issued, Mr. Grande said.

Town voters have already approved the measure in theory by agreeing at the 2020 town meeting to petition the legislature for permission to convert its liquor licenses. The legislation wound its way through the house and senate before reaching Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

Governor Baker signed the legislation in early August, clearing the way for final voter approval in November.

In Oak Bluffs, voters will also face a fifth question on the ballot in the November election, deciding whether to fund design and upgrade costs for the town’s existing wastewater treatment facility.

In April, voters at town meeting approved up to $26 million for the design and construction costs related to the project, as the town’s wastewater system reaches capacity. The measure requires a second approval at the ballot box in order to pass.

The project has already been through a design and planning phase, and looks to modernize and expand the town’s 20-year old wastewater treatment facility. Among other things, the project, in accordance with the town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan, calls for an expansion of sewer lines which will help alleviate a bottleneck facing development in Oak Bluffs.

“The [wastewater treatment facility] is approaching its design capacity and has very limited capacity for new connections,” reads a fact sheet on question five released by the town this week. “Additionally, mechanical components of the [facility] are approaching their 20-year design life span.”

Question five on the Oak Bluffs ballot comes in the form of a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion measure, meaning the town will be allowed to assess additional taxes in order to pay back debt accrued for the project.

According to the fact sheet released by the town, Oak Bluffs has been accepted into a state program potentially allowing the town to pay a near-zero interest rate on debt for the project with further potential for up to 39 per cent forgiveness on the cost of the project.

Statewide, the election features four ballot questions, all of which could affect day-to-day life on the Island.

A yes vote on question one, also known as the “fair share amendment,” would amend the state constitution to add a four per cent tax on incomes over $1 million that the state legislature could use for transportation and education. Currently, Massachusetts residents of all incomes are taxed at a flat rate of five per cent. Anyone making less than $1 million would not be affected by this change.

The measure was proposed by a group called “Fair Share Massachusetts” that argues the rate hike will make the state tax system more equitable and bring in more revenue for public services. Opponents, which include a group of business owners and farmers, argue that the current system is already fair, since higher earners still pay more money in taxes under a flat rate.

Question two involves new regulations for dental insurance. A yes vote on the question would require dental insurers to meet a medical loss ratio of 83 per cent, meaning 83 cents of every dollar earned in premiums would have to go back into patient care instead of administrative expenses. If passed, insurance companies would also have to share their financial data with state regulators who could oppose rate increases. Proponents have argued that passing the measure would limit administrative bloat in the dental industry, while opponents have said the measure would lead to higher premiums for consumers.

Question three would expand the number of liquor licenses one chain retailer can hold, from nine to 18, by 2031. The question also has new regulations for liquor sales, including the banning of self-service checkout. Liquor stores have pushed for the measure, while food stores have fought against it, saying it unfairly penalizes retailers that sell more than just alcohol.

The final statewide ballot question asks voters if they approve of a new state law allowing immigrants, regardless of legal status, to obtain driver’s licenses after passing a road test and showing proof of identity and residency. These driver’s licenses do not give immigrants the option to register to vote.

Proponents have argued that allowing more residents to take road tests will improve road safety and decrease hit-and-run incidents, while opponents have argued that the law could create issues with verifying citizenship status for voters. The state legislature passed the law earlier this year, overriding Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto.

In-person voting will occur in all six Island towns on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 8.