Correction: 12 House Democrats and One Independent voted to shut their constituents out of the referendum process

Oops! Based on a bit of incorrect information received as I researched Monday’s story on the Constitutional amendment to require an equal percentage of signatures for citizen initiatives to come from each Congressional District, I got the list wrong. Here is the corrected column.

Twelve Democrats and one Independent in the House of Representatives representing districts in Maine’s Second Congressional District have some explaining to do to their constituents. They voted against the Constitutional amendment to require an equal percentage of signatures for citizen initiatives to come from each Congressional District.

The amendment would have been on the ballot this fall, for a decision by all the people of Maine. These fourteen House Democrats essentially said, “We don’t think our constituents need to be part of this process. Go ahead and get all your signatures in southern Maine. The people in our districts don’t need to be involved.” Good luck explaining that!

If one of these people represent you, I hope you will contact him or her and ask for an explanation. Then please share it with me ( Here are the disappointing 13:

Heidi Brooks of Lewiston

Christine Burstein of Lincolnville

Ralph Chapman of Brooksville

James Davitt of Hampden

Victoria Kornfield of Bangor

Aaron Frey of Bangor

Paul Gilbert of Jay

Adam Goode of Bangor

Gay Grant of Gardiner

Peggy Rotundo, Lewiston

John Schneck, Bangor

Ryan Tipping-Spitz, Orono

Gary Sukeforth, Appleton (Independent)

Two Senators representing folks in the Second Congressional District also voted against the bill, although their votes didn’t matter much because 32 Senators voted in favor of the amendment. Still, I encourage you to contact them for an explanation. The two Senators are:

Nathan Libby, Androscoggin County

John Patrick, Oxford County


The Process

When I posted a column about this issue last Friday, I didn’t realize that the original bill, LD 1228, was set aside because it called for a simple change of law. The goal required more than a change of law, so the language of that bill was moved, by the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, to LD 742, a Constitutional Amendment sponsored by Senator Tom Saviello, and that’s the bill that proceeded to the full House and Senate. And there were recorded votes on this bill in both the House and Senate. Special thanks to Dave Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine for filling me in on all of this.

Dave told me that some folks in southern Maine who are involved in petition drives lobbied strongly against LD 742, and convinced some these 13 House members to oppose the bill, even though it would have empowered their own constituents in the signature gathering and referendum process.

While LD 742 whipped through the Senate, 32 to 3, it fell agonizingly short in the House of the 2/3 vote necessary to move the issue to the ballot. On the most important vote, 63 percent of House members voted for the bill, just short of the required 67 percent.

Senator Saviello, SAM, and other advocates successfully rescued the bill after that disappointing vote in the House, and got it recommitted to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee so it can be taken up again in the 2016 session. Hopefully, the constituents of those 13 House members can turn them around by that time.

The Issue

Here’s what LD 742 would have required for a citizen’s ballot initiative: “the number of signatures from each congressional district shall not be less than 10% of the total vote for Governor cast in that congressional district in the last gubernatorial election.”

As Dave Trahan explained, of the 63,626 valid signatures submitted by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting to qualify their initiative for the ballot, 46,463 came from the First Congressional District. And 46 percent of the signatures came from just 12 cities and towns, mostly in Cumberland County.

There are several good reasons to require petitioners to collect signatures in the northern half of the state, but the best one, for me, is that an initiative should be discussed statewide and demonstrate statewide support before it gets on the ballot.

After I posted Friday’s column on this issue, readers posed some good questions, some of which I tried to answer, and some of which others answered, including Representative Bob Duchesne of Hudson (in the Second Congressional District).

Here’s one of Bob’s posts, which addressed some confusion on the part of my readers about what the amendment would require.

“The two Congressional Districts must have proportionally equal populations, and the amendment would simply have required that a referendum have proportionally balanced statewide support between the two CDs. And it cuts both ways. It would mean that any attempt to impose southern Maine values on northern Maine would have to have significant signature support in both halves of the state. Conversely, if anyone wanted to ban a national park in northern Maine, it would have to have significant southern Maine support. All the bill wanted to do was make sure that each referendum had enough support across the state to merit a vote.”

I would simply add, 80 percent of Maine land is in the Second Congressional District, and the people who live there (including me), feel increasingly disenfranchised and dominated by the people of Cumberland and York Counties. I thoroughly agree: this is one state. And I also believe that we must work together – all of us – and none of us should be excluded from any political process, including signature gathering for a ballot measure.

Let’s hope the legislature gets this right next year.


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,, 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.