“This measure, if it passes, will certainly have the effect of making it harder for citizen initiatives to qualify for the ballot. It will also have the perverse effect of ensuring that the only measures that can succeed are those that are well-financed from the beginning, increasing the role of big, out-of-state money in the process.”
– Testimony by Anna Kellar, joint executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the League of Women Voters of Maine.
This bill was a routine elections bill that updated a number of technical provisions, but it included one section that would have been very damaging to grassroots campaigns: it would have banned signature collectors within 50 feet of polling places.
Ever since the populist labor movement of the early twentieth century in Maine won our right to direct democracy through the citizen initiative process, referendums have been a critical check on the balance of power in state government. Both conservatives and progressives have brought initiatives before voters, and in the last several years major victories have been won when the legislature was completely grid-locked under divided partisan rule. Citizen initiatives rely on the ability to reach large numbers of registered voters at once to reach the threshold for qualification (one of the most onerous in the country). Banning the collection of signatures at polling locations is about as anti-democratic as it gets, and would have benefited well-moneyed efforts that don’t have to rely on volunteers on Election Day to collect signatures.
DEAD: This bill died between chambers.