Ruling Hinders Signature Gatherers From Away

The Press Herald looks at some of the ramifications of the Hoffman decision today, one of which is an extra hurdle for out-of-state signature gathering firms.

One area the ruling is likely to affect is the process by which signatures are gathered. Many referendum drives in Maine rely on paid petitioners from out of state to gather signatures. But under Maine's Constitution, the people actually circulating the petition must be Maine residents.

What often happens, said Dan Billings, a Republican activist and attorney from Waterville, is that the professionals pair up with Maine residents. The pros make the pitch to would-be signers, and the Mainer who is supposed to witness the signature often isn't there, but rather in a nearby car or reading a book.

Based on the new ruling, that kind of arrangement would no longer be allowed. The circulator who signs their oath on the petition page must be a Maine resident and must witness each signature personally. This understanding of the regulations would make it more difficult for corporate-backed efforts, such as the beverage tax repeal, which have relied on signature gathering firms from outside the state, to get their issue on the ballot.

Representatives from both Health Coverage for Maine and Fed Up With Taxes are quoted in the article anticipating a challenge to the beverage tax signatures on these grounds.