Should Second Congressional District residents have a say in what gets onto the ballot? 57 House members say No!

Kerri Bickford Capitol twoGroups representing sportsmen and women won legislative support last year 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 where the people will decide the issue, the measure fell short of the necessary votes in the House last year – but supporters were able to pull it back and get it set aside for reconsideration this year.

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.

Tuesday’s Vote

On Tuesday, 90 members of the House of Representatives voted for the proposal, while 57 voted against it. That leaves us 8 votes short of the number needed to get the proposal onto the ballot. Shamefully, some of those 57 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.

Thanks go to Dave Trahan for providing me with Tuesday’s roll call vote on this issue. You can check that out here. I especially encourage you, if you live in the Second Congressional District, to note how your Representative voted, and if he or she voted against this proposal, please let your Representative know that you are very unhappy! And even if you live in the First Congressional District, let your Representative know you support this proposal (especially if they voted against it).

“Whether these legislators support the policy or not, all Maine people deserve a chance to vote whether they want to change the Constitution,” Trahan told me. 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,, 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.