AUGUSTA — A bid to change Maine law to require that referendum campaigns obtain at least 10 percent of voter signatures from each congressional district before making the ballot failed to gain enough support in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The House voted 93-52 to approve the measure, but the result was four votes short of the two-thirds support required. The bill would have amended the Maine Constitution, an act that first requires two-thirds votes in the House and Senate before being sent to voters for final ratification.

The proposal is a response to complaints from some that Maine’s referendum law is too easily exploited by out-of-state interest groups who target more populated, and often more liberal, cities and towns in southern Maine to gather signatures that put issues on the ballot. Supporters argued that rural Maine voters have less of a say in determining whether those issues – such as the bear baiting referendum from 2014 – should qualify for the ballot.

Opponents of the bill countered that it will make it harder for citizens to petition their government, and that all voters ultimately have the opportunity to have their say on an issue.

The proposal was heavily debated last year, but failed to get enough support to go to voters for consideration. The bill was then carried over to the current session for additional consideration by lawmakers. The bill, L.D. 742, will now go to the Senate for another vote, but Tuesday’s vote in the House means the measure is unlikely to advance.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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Twitter: @stevemistler