AUGUSTA — A referendum to change Maine’s primary utility company into a quasi-public agency is potentially tabled until 2023 because organizers indicated they may not have the necessary signatures before the deadline to make the November ballot.

The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for groups to gather signatures from registered Maine voters. They would need to submit more than 63,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office by the Jan. 31 deadline to put the question on the ballot, the Bangor Daily News reported on Thursday.

The ballot question would ask voters if they wanted lawmakers to transform Central Maine Power into a quasi-public agency. The state would borrow billions of dollars to buy CMP and Versant Power’s infrastructure and put the system in control of an elected board.

Lawmakers leading the effort on the referendum declined to say whether they’ve gathered enough signatures to make it onto the 2022 ballot, the newspaper reported.

A Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said so far she has received only about 200 signatures from Our Power, the group organizing the campaign.

Rep. Seth Berry, a Democrat who has championed the campaign, told the newspaper there were “great arguments” for putting the referendum on the ballot in either 2022 or 2023.

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