FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Contact: Kristen Schulze Muszynski
Secretary of State to issue new determination on marijuana legalization petition effort following remand from Superior Court
AUGUSTA ? Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap will not take an immediate appeal of the April 8 ruling on the determination regarding the citizens? initiative ?An Act To Legalize Marijuana,? and will instead issue a new determination on remand from the Superior Court.
?Our decision to not immediately appeal the Superior Court ruling on the case is grounded entirely in the goal of this office to insure that initiative questions that appear on the ballot carry with them the public integrity of a legitimate effort,? said Secretary Dunlap.
On March 2, the Department of the Secretary of State found that the marijuana legalization petition effort did not have enough valid signatures of Maine voters to qualify for the 2016 ballot, as the petitioners had submitted 51,543 valid signatures, while a total of 47,686 were deemed invalid. A minimum of 61,123 valid signatures from registered Maine voters is required to get a citizens? initiative on the ballot.
The petitioners appealed this determination and on April 8, Justice Michaela Murphy of the Business and Consumer Court handed down her ruling on that appeal. Justice Murphy remanded the petition certification determination back to the department, finding that the department ?committed an error of law by applying a vague, subjective and/or unduly burdensome interpretation? (of the law) that requires notaries to affix their signature ?in the same form as indicated on the notary public?s commission.
The Court reversed the department?s decision to invalidate 21,797 of the petition signatures due to significant variances in the signatures of five notaries, which did not match their official notary signatures on file, and remanded the matter to the department to ?take further action consistent with [the Court?s] order.?
?My decision at certification was based on a concern that we could not determine whether the five notaries had in fact administered the oaths to the circulators who had signed the petitions,? said Secretary Dunlap.
The Superior Court concluded that that it was impermissible to invalidate petitions on these grounds and that the department ?must review each individual petition for the requirements enumerated in the Maine Constitution and any evidence of fraud that would cause invalidation.?
The department?s Elections Division staff will now conduct additional review of all the signatures in this petition effort that were invalidated due to problems with the notarization of the circulator?s oath. This process will confirm whether the effort will qualify for the November 2016 ballot.
?We will, as expeditiously as possible, conduct this inquiry with the goal of issuing a new determination that will endure all scrutiny; if sufficient signatures are validated, there should be no reason at that juncture for the people to be uneasy about the legitimacy of these petitions,? said Secretary Dunlap.
?As I stated when our decision was released on March 2, it is not our goal to invalidate the signatures of registered Maine voters. Our goal is that our review of valid signatures expresses manifestly the expectations of the Constitution that only Maine voters circulate instruments of petition, that only Maine voters affix their signatures to those instruments, and that the oath taken by each circulator is properly administered by those empowered to ascribe oaths. We only validate or invalidate signatures based on those core elements.
?To that end, we will renew our work and seek answers to many of the questions that gave us pause during the initial review,? he said, ?and we will issue a new determination pursuant to the Court order.?