Mike Higgins of Mike Higgins Auto adds power steering fluid to a vehicle while working in his garage in Kittery on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday that a “Right to Repair” petition has enough valid signatures to send it to the Legislature, which can either vote to pass the law or place it on the November ballot for voters to decide.

If enacted, the proposal would ensure that vehicle owners and independent repair shops can access on-board diagnostic systems that advocates say are now only accessible to manufacturers and dealers. That would allow car and truck owners to use independent shops for car and truck repairs.

Advocates had been gathering signatures since October and submitted 83,252 signatures to the state Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions on Jan. 19. The Secretary of State’s Office determined that 74,686 of the signatures were valid, more than the 67,682 needed to qualify for a statewide vote.

According to the Maine Right to Repair advocacy group, “more than 90% of new cars are now equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly only to vehicle manufacturers, threatening the rights of consumers to get the cars they own fixed at trusted independent repair shops or do the work themselves.”

Tommy Hickey, Right to Repair campaign director, said the initiative is “critical” for consumers’ rights.

“If this ballot question doesn’t pass, drivers in Maine will have no choice and will be forced to go to more expensive dealerships,” Hickey said in a statement.

But Brian Weiss, vice president of communications for the Washington-based Alliance for Automotive Innovation, told the Press Herald in January that the ballot measure is not needed.

Weiss said all of the information required for repairs is already made available to independent repair shops, and has been since automakers and the repair industry signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014.

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