A Superior Court justice has affirmed Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s decision to reject petitions to put a controversial York County casino question on the November ballot.

State election officials and Dunlap ruled March 2 that the Horseracing Jobs Fairness campaign failed to submit 62,123 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The state cited a number of irregularities, including voter and notary signatures that did not match signatures on file with the state.

The casino campaign was one of two that were derailed last month because of questions about the validity of voter or notary signatures. Dunlap also invalidated thousands of petitions circulated by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. That action also was appealed in court, and the deadline for a decision is Monday.

In the casino campaign appeal, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that Horseracing Jobs Fairness failed to produce enough evidence to prove that election officials erred when invalidating 55,776 of the 91,294 signatures submitted for certification in February.

“Petitioners bear the burden of proof in the present action and cannot satisfy that burden by pointing to a number of alleged errors and asking the court to extrapolate from those errors that more must exist,” Murphy wrote in a decision released Thursday.

Dunlap, in a statement, said he was satisfied with the ruling.


“We realize that those citizens who signed this petition in good faith may be disappointed, but our job is to ensure that the constitutional requirements are met, and to that end, we are gratified by the ruling,” Dunlap said.

Cheryl Timberlake, the registered agent for the campaign, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The campaign filed its appeal March 11 in Kennebec County Superior Court, arguing that Dunlap’s office applied the standards of petition signature review inconsistently and arbitrarily, and that there are no explicit guidelines for how to verify the authenticity of a notary’s signature when it has been questioned.

At the center of the dispute is Olympic Consulting, a Lewiston-based firm that Horseracing Jobs Fairness hired to gather signatures. The firm is run by former state legislator Stavros Mendros, who is a complainant in the appeal.

Signature gatherers, or circulators, are required to sign an affidavit in the presence of a notary swearing that they witnessed each voter signature. The notaries are responsible for verifying the circulator’s identity.

Mendros, who in 2007 pleaded guilty to petition irregularities, is one of the notaries and signers of the casino petitions.


Dunlap gave two reasons for rejecting signatures: Some belonged to people who are not registered voters, and a larger group of signatures – 32,526 – were invalid because the circulator’s signature on the circulator’s oath, or the signature of the notary listed as having administered the oath, didn’t match signatures on file with the state.

“It was clear just by looking at the documents that somebody had a stack of petitions and somebody was just notarizing them,” Dunlap said March 2.

The suit alleged that instead of verifying each notary’s signature against a signature on file, Dunlap’s office examined a representative sample of the notary signatures. When an irregularity was found in the sample, all of the petitions signed by that notary were invalidated, a practice that is against the state’s own guidelines, the suit alleged.

Mendros and his firm also were involved in gathering signatures for the marijuana campaign. In that case, 5,099 petition sheets containing 26,779 signatures were all notarized by Mendros but invalidated by Dunlap’s office.

The casino effort featured an aggressive signature-collection drive that raised questions in some quarters about whether Maine needs to tighten and reform its referendum law. The campaign generated complaints from the public about aggressive tactics and misleading statements by petition circulators.

Some of those circulators complained after the campaign that they hadn’t been paid.


The ballot question would allow Las Vegas gambling impresario Shawn Scott – and only Scott – to build the casino.

Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott, financed the campaign, which at one point was paying petition circulators between $7 and $10 per signature during a furious push to qualify for the ballot.

More than 35,000 of the signatures gathered have been certified. By law, the certified signatures are valid for a year from the date the campaign began collecting signatures. That means the campaign could use its certified signatures in 2017 if it collects roughly 26,000 valid signatures still needed to qualify for the ballot on or before Dec. 7.


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