By Ramona du Houx
In a decision handed down today, Justice Michaela Murphy of the Kennebec County Superior Court remanded the decision of the Maine Department of the Secretary of State on the citizens’ initiative “An Act To Legalize Marijuana.”
On March 2, the department found that the 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 47,686 were deemed invalid. A minimum of 61,123 valid signatures from registered Maine voters is required in the citizens’ initiative process.
The determination was challenged in a legal appeal that concluded with the decision today. Of the petition signatures found invalid, 31,338 of those were rejected for the oath signature of the notary who witnessed the circulator’s oath, due to significant variances in the signatures that did not match the notary signatures on file.
In her ruling, Justice Murphy found that “the record… demonstrates that the Secretary of State committed an error of law by applying a vague, subjective and/or unduly burdensome interpretation (of the law) to invalidate (the signatures on the basis of the oath signature).
“Requiring a notary’s signature to appear identically on every petition signed is unreasonable and abridges the Constitutional right to initiative,” she stated. “The State has presented no evidence, and the court is aware of none, correlating the variability of a notary’s signature with incidences of fraud in administering the circulator’s oath.”
“We thank Justice Murphy for her work and we are reviewing the impact of this decision and considering our options at this time,” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.