Just under a month ago, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Maine submitted just under 100,000 signatures to be validated, hopefully placing the referendum to legalize marijuana on the 2016 ballot. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State Matt Dunlap deemed that there were not enough valid petitions for them to move forward.
The reasoning behind so many invalid petition signatures was due to the offices interpretation of a 2009 law that states that a notary must sign their name “in the same form” as their signature which is on file. The signature of notary Stavros Mendros varied enough that they deemed over 17,000 signatures he notarized invalid.
Luckily, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol did not waste any time in filing a lawsuit in appeal to this decision. They claimed that the secretary of state has no right to deem these petitions invalid based on his own “subjective visual evaluation” of the signature.
Turns out, the Judge agreed with them and less than 30 days later the decision has been reversed – forcing the secretary of state to take a second look at all of the petitions they had previously deemed invalid due to notary signature.
“It involves standing in streets, shopping malls, public places and town halls, in both foul and fair weather, and asking for the voters’ support,” Murphy wrote. “Notaries are often asked to administer an oath in the midst of these less than ideal circumstances. The court finds that requiring a notary to perfectly reproduce his or her commission signature in light of these realities is unduly burdensome to this absolute constitutional right to initiative.”
This is exactly the kind of reasoning I like to see when a judge is forced to make this kind of call – where the secretary of state merely saw a variation in signature and automatically deemed the petitions invalid, the judge took into considerations the conditions under which petition signatures are gathered.
It’s not a quick and easy thing to gather 100,000 signatures – and to have to notarize those signatures, signing your name repeatedly over several hours a day. Think about it, how often have you ever signed your name perfectly the way it appears on your most important legal documents? Even someone with the most perfect penmanship still has an off day now and again.
“This re-review should now be a mere formality,” he (David Boyer, Campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol) said. “Once the secretary of state’s office has completed its work, we look forward to launching the formal part of our campaign and educating Maine voters about the benefits of regulating marijuana like alcohol.”
Hopefully Boyer is right, the previously rejected signatures will be able to be validated and the initiative will be on the ballot in November. Then they will be able to get down to the most important part of any campaign to legalize – and that’s educate the voters who are currently opposed simply for lack of knowledge about the plant and encourage the rest to turn up and vote.