A bill that includes a provision making signature gathering at Maine polling places a crime is not meant to kill the citizen initiative process as critics have claimed, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Friday. The bill, which includes a variety of unrelated provisions, is set for a Wednesday public hearing. One provision would prohibit exit polling, signature gathering, electioneering and charitable activities within 50 feet of the entrance to polling places. Dunlap, a Democrat, said some voters and municipal clerks have complained to his office about aggressive signature gatherers. “It gets pretty uncomfortable for the voter, I’ve seen it,” he said. “Situations where people are leaving the polls, and they’ll have people signing petitions, and they’ll yell, ‘Excuse me, excuse me, don’t leave!’ People will stop, startled.”
Maine is one of two dozen states that allow residents to place initiatives on the ballot. Over the years, it has seen other efforts to reform signature gathering and conduct at the polls.
The latest effort in Maine follows a North Dakota Supreme Court decision last year that said a man broke a state law by gathering signatures within 100 feet of a polling place.