Circulating a petition is one of the most sacred acts of an engaged democracy. But the integrity of that effort rests on the shoulders of the circulators, and an entire campaign can fail because of cost-cutting.
The Portland Democrats are joining with other organizations to attempt to put a question on the November ballot that would repeal the Legislature’s ban on same-day voter registration, which has worked well for Maine for decades. (More on this at http://www.protectmainevotes.com/) As we begin gathering signatures, please bear these rules in mind.
- There are no shortcuts!
- 57,277 signatures will keep the law from taking effect until the voters decide whether or not to let it stand.
- We have 90 days from the date of the adjournment of the Legislature to circulate and have verified the signatures needed.
- August 9 is the tentative deadline to get this question on the November ballot!
- You are the legal steward of every petition you manage. It is your name that is on the petition, and you are legally accountable for the methods employed to gather signatures.
- The signatures must be physically made by the voter. Absolutely no online, electronic or photocopied methods are allowed.
- You must personally witness every signature.
- You will sign a notarized oath to this effect. You will do this for every form you circulate. The notary who affirms your oath may not be related to you, under Maine law.
- In the past, desperate or sloppy signature-gatherers have left petitions unattended on store counters, at public supper tables or at fair booths. If the circulator has not witnessed each person signing the petition, every signature on that petition could be disqualified.
- In rare cases, petition-gatherers have pulled names out of phone books and copied them onto forms. This is a crime and is punishable under the law.
- Only registered Maine voters may circulate and sign petitions, regardless of party affiliation (or lack thereof). Individuals who sign and are not registered voters will not count toward the total.
- If someone who is not a registered Maine voter circulates a petition, none of the signatures on that petition can be counted.
- The voter must indicate the date on which he or she signed.
- If a voter cannot do so on his or her own, you may print his or her name, address and the date signed — but the voter must personally sign the petition.
- Once you affix your oath on a petition and date it, that petition form is closed, even if it only has one signature on it. If you then want to add signatures, you must start a new form.
- You must use the form approved by the Secretary of State, which will have affixed the copy of the law for the people’s veto. No pads of paper, no additional pages. You fill a form, you get another form.
- You cannot pay people to sign a petition!
- Only the voter may sign his or her own name. Many signatures are disqualified because the signature does not belong to the registered voter. Frequently, for instance, a couple will be approached and one says to the other, “Sign for me, too.” The Secretary of State’s Office matches up signatures to original voter registration cards, so this matters. Signatures made by another person are disqualified from the total.
- Voter participation in the petition is verified by the town clerk or registrar of voters, so it is important to keep petition forms segregated by town. There is no requirement to do this, but if you collect signatures of voters from Bingham, Buxton, Bucksport, Bangor and Bradley, you must take the same petition to each town to verify the status of the voters who signed.
- You must submit your signatures to the towns where you collected them not less than 5 days before the deadline for submission to the Secretary of State. If they are late, the town cannot verify them, even if they want to. This requierement is in the Constitution — Article IV, Part Third, Section 20.
- Top reasons why signatures are invalidated:
- Signatory was not a registered voter in the town specified.
- Circulator’s oath was not administered or was not done properly.
- Signature was a duplicate — voters can sign as many times as they want, but only one signature counts.
- Voter’s signature was crossed out. (There is no legal method for withdrawing a signature, but these are not counted because Elections Division staff doesn’t know why the signature was crossed out.)
- Signature was dated after the date of the circulator’s oath.
- Signature was not on the approved form.
- Signature was submitted after the deadline for town verification.
- Voter signature was made by another.
- Voter did not sign the form.
- The notary who affirmed the oath of the circulator was related to the circulator.
- Signatures invalidated because of material alterations to the petition (changed dates, detaching copy of the law, etc.)
- Petition invalidated because it could not be verified that the circulator was a registered Maine voter.
- Petition invalidated because certification of the registrar was not completed.
This all sounds very picky. But remember, you are dealing with a Secretary of State who is unfriendly to this effort. In the last people’s veto (on the tax reform issue), petitioners submitted more than 71,000 signatures, but because of the mistakes listed above, nearly 15,000 were kicked out. Your due diligence up front will assure that you succeed later.
THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!