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For Immediate Release
Law Court Upholds Gwadosky's Decision
to Invalidate Tax Cap Petition
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision today upholding Secretary of State Dan A. Gwadosky's determination that an insufficient number of signatures were submitted to advance a citizen initiated referendum entitled "An Act to Impose Limits on Real and Personal Property Taxes" and circulated by the Maine Taxpayers Action Network (MTAN).
"We are very pleased with the Law Court's decision to uphold our ruling that the petitions circulated by an individual fraudulently using the identity of James Henry Powell should be invalidated," stated Secretary Gwadosky. "In order for Maine citizens to have faith in the citizen initiative process, it is important for those circulating petitions to be Maine citizens."
In its ruling, Maine's highest court stated that "we are not persuaded by MTAN's contentions that there is no requirement that the circulator be the person he purports to be," and concluded "in this case, there is no question that James Powell did not, in fact, circulate the petitions; rather, some unidentified individual posing as James Powell circulated the petitions."
Secretary Gwadosky had ruled on February 4, 2002, that insufficient valid signatures had been filed by MTAN. Specifically, the Secretary determined James Henry Powell was not a Maine resident (as required by the Maine Constitution) and was also determined not to be the individual, he purported to be, fraudulently using the identity of another.
The petitioners appealed the Secretary's ruling to the Superior Court where Justice Humphrey affirmed Secretary Gwadosky's decision to invalidate 3,054 signatures collected by a circulator, calling himself James H. Powell, on the basis that he was not a Maine resident and was using a false identity. The petitioners appealed the Superior Court's decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which issued its opinion today affirming the Superior Court's decision and the Secretary's determination.
This is the third attempt by the Maine Taxpayers Action Network to file a petition on this issue. Attempts in 1996 and 1998 were not successful in obtaining the necessary signatures to place the legislation before the Maine Legislature and ultimately before Maine voters. In this most recent attempt, the petition had been approved for circulation on October 14, 2000 and petitions were filed for certification with the Secretary of State's Office on October 12 and 15, 2001.
The direct initiative process is set forth in the Maine
Constitution and allows citizens to propose bills for consideration
by the Legislature through the petition process. Petitioners seeking
to utilize this democratic process must collect signatures of Maine
voters that represent 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last
gubernatorial election. Currently, this figure is 42,101.