Legislature refuses to give Second District residents a say in what gets on the ballot.

Kerri Bickford Capitol two websiteFifty two members of Maine’s House of Representatives have slammed the door on residents of Maine’s Second Congressional District, refusing to support a Constitutional amendment giving them a say in what gets on the ballot.

Groups representing sportsmen and women have been advocating for a Constitutional Amendment requiring that the number of signatures obtained by referendum campaigns equal at least 10 percent of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election from each congressional district. Current law only includes a minimum number of signatures statewide.

This would force groups, seeking to put something on the ballot, to get out into all of Maine, rather than concentrate their signature gathering in Portland and southern Maine. Unfortunately, because the measure requires a 2/3 vote of support in both the House and Senate before going onto the ballot, the measure fell short of the necessary 2/3 vote in final vote in the House on March 10. The vote was 93 to 52 in favor of the bill, leaving us agonizingly short of 2/3. The favorable vote in the Senate was a 31 to 2, demonstrating how out of step those 52 House members are with what is fair and reasonable. Almost every single Senator agreed with us!

Essentially, those Representatives are refusing to let you vote on and decide this issue. The Constitutional amendment would have been placed on the ballot for your vote and decision. Shamefully, some of those 52 negative votes came from Representatives in the Second Congressional District. Apparently they don’t feel their constituents deserve the chance to be included in the signature gathering process.

I’m very proud of my Senator, Tom Saviello, who sponsored this important bill. Specifically, the bill would require the number of signatures needed to get a measure onto the ballot to be at least 10 percent of the total gubernatorial votes in the First Congressional District – southern and coastal Maine – and 10 percent of the total gubernatorial votes in the Second Congressional District – western, northern and Down East Maine. Groups proposing citizen initiatives would have to collect about 29,000 signatures in the Second Congressional District and 32,000 in the First Congressional District, based on turnout from the recent gubernatorial election.

Final Votes

You can see the final Senate vote here, and the final House vote here. I encourage you to check them out, and if you find that your Representative voted no, let him or her know how unhappy you are. This is especially important if you live in the Second Congressional District, because your Representative decided you don’t deserve to be involved in the decisions of what goes on the referendum ballot.

As SAM’s Dave Trahan told me, “Whether these legislators support the policy or not, all Maine people deserve a chance to vote whether they want to change the Constitution.” And I agree! I hope you do too.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.