A Kennebec County Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that state officials may have improperly invalidated thousands of signatures of registered Maine voters and unlawfully denied citizens their constitutional right to vote on a proposed ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Justice Michaela Murphy found that state officials invalidated more than 5,000 petitions ---which included more than 17,000 signatures from Maine voters that were validated by town clerks --- without actually reviewing every petition in question. The Secretary of State's Office must now review all of the disputed petitions and place the initiative on the November ballot if it determines enough valid signatures were collected.
On March 2, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap informed the campaign that its 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 his determination, the secretary of state said his office invalidated more than 5,000 petitions, which included more than 26,000 total petition signatures, solely due to its finding that the signature of a single notary did not "match" the signature the state has on file. On March 10, supporters of the initiative filed a lawsuit challenging the decision.
Statement from David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol:
"We are extremely pleased with the court's decision to send our initiative back to the secretary of state for re-review. As was the case when we submitted our signatures to the secretary of state originally, we know that a sufficient number of registered voters signed the petition to qualify for the ballot. So this re-review should now be a mere formality. Once the Secretary of State's Office has completed its work, we look forward to launching the formal part of our campaign and educating Maine voters about the benefits of regulating marijuana like alcohol."
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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.