A citizen initiative to require voter approval before the state takes on over $1 billion in debt has gathered enough valid signatures to put the question to voters in November, the Secretary of State’s Office said.

State voters are now likely to be presented with two competing ballot referendums in November. A citizens’ initiative campaign aimed at replacing Maine’s two largest electric utilities with one owned by consumers submitted enough valid signatures last year to be considered by state voters.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows  Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

If both were approved, the debt-restriction initiative would give voters a say on whether the state could borrow the money needed to purchase Central Maine Power Co. and Versant Power, the state’s two largest utilities, and would give them a clearer idea of the cost, supporters say.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in a release that petitions for “An Act to Require Voter Approval of Certain Borrowing by Government-controlled Entities and Utilities and To Provide Voters More Information Regarding that Borrowing” contained 68,807 valid signatures, or 1,125 more than needed to place the question on the ballot.

Bellows said backers of the No Blank Checks initiative submitted a total of 93,837 signatures, with 25,030 signatures deemed invalid.

The No Blank Checks initiative will first go to the Legislature, which could vote to enact the bill as written or push it to a statewide vote in November 2023.


The group Our Power seeks voter approval to create Pine Tree Power, a consumer-owned utility that would replace Maine’s two investor-owned utilities, CMP and Versant. Pine Tree Power would be a privately operated, nonprofit utility run by a 13-member board.

The effort to force the sale of CMP and Versant’s assets is strongly opposed by a business and labor coalition called Maine Affordable Energy. The group supports No Blank Checks, whose goal is to force a statewide vote on any new government debt of over $1 billion, with exceptions for debt issued by a handful of agencies that include the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Maine Affordable Energy is backed by CMP’s domestic parent company, Avangrid Inc., which has spent more than $10 million on the campaign.

Both groups issued statements following Bellows’ announcement.

“They (Our Power) have done everything they can think of to keep Mainers from knowing the true cost of their proposal and are trying to stop us from having a say on whether they can put us billions of dollars in debt,” Willy Ritch, executive director of the No Blank Checks campaign, said in a statement. “Pine Tree Power is an expensive, risky scheme and the more Maine voters know about that, the more they think it’s a bad idea.”

But Our Power said No Blank Checks misled voters.


“The bottom line is that CMP bought signatures from Maine voters at $25 a pop. ‘No Blank Checks’ signature collectors openly misled voters and repeatedly broke the law, and helped CMP buy their way onto the ballot,” Andrew Blunt, executive director of Our Power, said in a statement. “What if instead of buying elections and constantly raising our rates, CMP finally cut rates for hardworking Maine people?”

Our Power accused “No Blank Checks” of retaining an out-of-state, paid signature collection firm, Second Street Associates, based in Washington, D.C., to collect signatures. No Blank Checks, in tandem with Maine Affordable Energy, has paid the firm over $2.5 million, Our Power says.

However, the campaign offered nothing to substantiate its claims of wrongdoing by No Blank Checks.

Ritch said in response, “The Pine Tree Power campaigns’ statements on our signature-gathering effort are 100% false and they know it. If anyone broke the law, they should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. They haven’t because they know what they are saying is absolutely false.”

This story has been updated to include a response from No Blank Checks.

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