Twelve “people’s veto” campaigns are now out in the field seeking to – as one organizer put it – “give Maine people a choice.”

That’s a common argument in favor of these campaigns, and for many people, it’s a persuasive one: Whether you agree or not with the issue at hand, why not put it on the ballot and let everyone decide?

But signing a people’s veto petition is more than a signal that you want voters to decide – it’s a declaration of support, and an indication that you don’t like what the Legislature has done.

After all, in a representative democracy, by the time a bill has become law, people have already had a say. In this case, Maine voters last November gave Democrats a majority in both the Senate and House and elected a Democratic governor, Janet Mills, by a hefty margin, and it was under those conditions that the laws were passed.

And the people’s voice doesn’t end there. Each of the dozen laws petitioners are trying to repeal went through the open legislative process. The three laws getting the most attention – MaineCare funding for abortion, the elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions for child vaccinations, and medication-assisted suicide – were the subject of intense scrutiny.

The hearing on the bill to provide abortion coverage through MaineCare included 265 pieces of public testimony. The debate over the vaccination bill featured a 14-hour hearing.

The bills weren’t rushed through. They weren’t hastily considered. No one’s voice was denied. The Legislature and the democratic process worked how it’s supposed to. From the perspective of the voter who is pleased with or even ambivalent toward the new laws, there’s no need to spend the weeks leading up to a referendum rehashing the same arguments, taking time and space away from other issues.

Count us among those pleased with the laws. We are encouraged that Maine will now treat all women the same for the purposes of access to abortion. We agree that the state’s low vaccination rates put children with compromised immune systems at risk, and that the well-being of those children outweighs the overblown and sometimes imaginary concerns over vaccines. And we believe that Mainers should be able to make end-of-life decisions for themselves.

If you too are happy to see these initiatives become law, don’t sign the petitions now circulating – most matters should not be decided by statewide referendum.

Don’t sign, either, if you are unsure about the issues or what exactly would be going on the ballot.

Disagree with the new laws? By all means, sign away. For each of the dozen petitions, organizers have to gather at least 63,067 valid signatures by Sept. 18 to put a repeal on the ballot – probably for the new March presidential primaries, but maybe in June, when the rest of the primaries are held.

If they can get that many signatures, it should mean that all those people are truly up in arms about the actions of the Legislature, and that a referendum is warranted to make sure lawmakers aren’t subverting the will of the voters.

In those cases, the people’s veto is invaluable. Otherwise, it’s kind of a waste.


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