This weekend, I started seeing commercials for some of the ballot questions Mainers are facing this November. There’s no surer sign that summer is over than when the political commercials ramp up. I wrote about 400 words in early August mentioning what the eight questions are, but I want to dive a bit deeper into them this week and next.

To be clear, as the executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber, we occasionally make official stances on ballot referendum questions. This is not that. If we do release an official statement on any of these questions, I will make it clear that it’s the official chamber stance. For now, I want to give you some background on these questions to better familiarize you with what we’re being asked to vote on.

Of the eight ballot referendum questions, four are citizen-initiated ballot referendums (Questions 1-4) and four are proposed amendments to the Maine State Constitution (Questions 5-8). Most of the political discussion and commercials will be around the first four questions, including some future columns from me. Because of that, I want to give the less-focused-on Questions 5-8 the spotlight this week.

Questions 5 and 7 both involve the citizen-initiated referendum petition process. Many of the big referendum questions over the last decade have used this process. To get on the ballot, petitioners must gather a specific number of signatures of Maine voters that is equal to 10% of the voters from the last gubernatorial election (currently just under 64,000). To reach the valid signature threshold, the petitioners traditionally will submit over 75,000 signatures gathered. Then the Secretary of State’s Office validates the signatures, crossing out any that are duplicates (people who accidentally signed the petition more than once) and unregistered Maine voters.

Question 5 asks if you want to change the review period for checking those signatures from 100 calendar days to 100 business days. Additionally, a “yes” vote would also allow the review period to begin 30 business days after a general election, when a petition is filed within 30 calendar days of a general election (because the Secretary of State’s Office is just really busy at election time and this gives them more time).

From my research, Question 5 is widely supported by legislators and the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.


Question 7 asks if you want to revoke the statute that those who gather signatures for citizen initiatives in Maine need to be registered Maine voters. According to (which gives a very straightforward explanation of these issues), “This amendment would align the Maine Constitution with a decision by the First Court of Appeals in the We the People PAC et al. v. Bellows decision, which affirmed a decision by a U.S. District Court that requiring a circulator for written petition in Maine to be a Maine resident is a violation of the First Amendment.”

However, Maine has not been alone in wanting their petition gatherers to be state residents and registered voters. Of the 26 states that have the citizen referendum process, seven require petition gatherers to be registered voters in that state, while three additional states (Maine, Colorado and Mississippi) “had requirements in statute, but courts had invalidated or blocked the enforcement of the statutes,” according to Ballotpedia.

It seems proponents think it’s common sense to align with the federal court decision and support the amendment, though Maine voters may feel differently. I suppose if the federal court could dictate it, they already would have. Since the question is coming to us at all, then Mainers get to make this decision.

Question 6 is confusing. The question says, essentially, “Do you want to require all provisions of the Constitution to be included in the printed version?”, which sounds initially like, “yeah, sure.” So, I dug a little deeper to find out what the reason for the question is, and it has to do with three sections of Article X that were prohibited from being printed, by a statewide vote, in 1876. Section 1 and Section 2 of Article X pertained to the date and time of the meeting of the first state Legislature in Maine, plus the makeup of the Legislature. Section 5 of Article X included language pertaining to the Indian Treaty Obligations of Maine. Since the Constitution was passed in 1820, many new agreements with the tribes have been negotiated, and thus, the original treaty obligations from 1820 are no longer the guiding principles. In 1876, when the vote occurred, those sections were omitted from being printed because they were no longer critical, though they were not revoked — they just weren’t printed to save paper and confusion.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, Attorney General Aaron Frey and the Wabanaki Alliance are in favor of the question, with the general idea being that for transparency, those sections of Article X should be printed. Gov. Janet Mills, through legal counsel, disagrees and worries that printing these now would just cause confusion, specifically as ancient treaties don’t align with the current agreements established in pieces such as the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement of 1980.

Finally, Question 8 involves the right of those under guardianship for reasons of mental illness to be able to vote for governors, senators and representatives. Currently, they’re not allowed to vote, which the U.S. District Court said violates the 14th Amendment. However, just like Question 7, if the federal court could dictate it, Mainers wouldn’t be getting a chance to vote on it, so it will be decided at the ballot box.

This issue appeared on the Maine ballot in 1997 and again in 2000. The removal of the restriction did not pass either time — losing 58-42, then 60-40. For reference, 249 statewide ballot measures have gone to voters between 1985 and 2022, and they get approved 74.1% of the time. It’ll be interesting to see if Maine voters have changed their minds on this over the last 23 years.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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