Maine’s town clerks are keeping busy verifying signatures for petitions aimed at getting referendum proposals onto the November ballot. And soon state election officials will kick into high gear, as well, to validate the petitions. The campaigns have until Friday to get signatures delivered to local clerks. Then the petitions must be delivered to state election officials by Feb. 1. Signature-gathering has been taking place for a number of proposals, including for marijuana legalization, background checks for firearm purchases, ranked-choice voting, higher minimum wage, school funding and a GOP income tax cut/welfare reform proposal. Each proposal needs to have 61,123 valid signatures of registered voters to advance.
That’s a lot of signatures, but it’s not unprecedented, said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. Clerks dealt with seven referendums in 2009, he noted.
In Portland, City Clerk Katherine Jones said she has six full-time staff members and four part-timers working on validating signatures. The city also hired some election workers and is using deputy registrars to assist in the effort, as well, she said.
As of last week, about 2,500 pages had been certified in Portland. Each page has about 30 to 60 signatures, so the number of names checked so far could top 100,000. “It is a lot of work. It consumes the entire office. We’re working petitions from morning until night,” Jones said.