Backers of an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine filed a lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court on Thursday challenging the Secretary of State's decision to disqualify the measure from the November ballot. According to the suit, which is now available online at http://bit.ly/1pzNhVO, state officials improperly invalidated thousands of signatures of registered Maine voters and unlawfully denied citizens their constitutional right to vote on the measure.
Campaign leader David Boyer and attorney Scott Anderson announced the details of the suit at a news conference in the office of Portland law firm Verrill Dana. Anderson is representing a group of Maine voters who signed the petition in support of the initiative, including Boyer, State Sen. Eric Brakey, and State Rep. Diane Russell, among others.
Last week, the Secretary of State's Office announced that the proposed initiative did not qualify for the November ballot. 61,123 signatures of registered Maine voters were required, and state officials determined that initiative backers submitted 51,543 valid signatures. In a document explaining their determination, state officials said they invalidated more than 5,000 petitions, which included more than 26,000 total petition signatures, solely due to their finding that the signature of a notary did not "match" the signature the state has on file. It appears more than 17,000 signatures were otherwise valid signatures of registered Maine voters.
According to the initiative backers' lawsuit, the Secretary of State's decision is flawed because the disputed signatures do, in fact, match those on file and because the Secretary of State acted outside his authority in invalidating the petitions.
The Secretary of State did not provide any factual findings to explain how the notaries' signatures on the petitions differed from those on file, and neither the state constitution nor the governing statute authorize the Secretary of State to disqualify otherwise valid petitions based on a subjective comparison of signatures performed by a non-expert employee. The suit also points out instances in which the Secretary of State invalidated petitions because the signature of the individual who notarized them did not match the signature on file, but validated other petitions in which the same individual signed as a circulator using the same signature.
"We are confident that this appeal will result in the initiative appearing on the November ballot," Boyer said. "Each of the petitions in question was properly signed by both the circulators and the notaries. There is simply no reason for the Secretary of State to reject more than 17,000 signatures from registered voters in the state.
"The Secretary of State's Office did not follow procedures commonly used to ensure, in their words, the 'integrity' of the process," he said. "The law dictates that these 17,000-plus signatures be counted."
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Source: The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is supporting a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Maine and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visithttp://www.RegulateMaine.org.