Senator Mason, Representative Luchini, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, my name is Pete Didisheim. I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify on behalf of our 20,000 members and supporters in opposition to the provision in LD 1726 (Section 13) that would criminalize the collection of signatures for a direct initiative of legislation or referendum within 50 feet of a polling place.
This new restriction would make it much more difficult for Maine citizens to get legislative initiatives onto the ballot, making the initiative process increasingly accessible only to wealthy individuals and organizations that can pay signature gatherers.
NRCM strongly believes that the initiative process should be accessible to Maine citizens, and not designed for millionaires and billionaires from out of state.
Maine has a long tradition of citizen involvement in the legislative process, from town meetings to a citizen Legislature to accessible legislative hearings where the voices of individuals can be heard and make a difference. Maine’s initiative process is an important part of this system, allowing individuals from across the full political spectrum to draft proposed bills and attempt to get them placed on the ballot.
Each step of the citizen initiative process in Maine already is challenging, including the drafting of the bill, recruitment of petitioners, securing more than 61,000 signatures, and building support for the measure if it is certified to appear on the ballot. LD 1726 would make the process even more difficult and more out of reach of any Maine resident who is interested in bringing a proposed bill directly to the Legislature and Maine voters for their consideration.
At a time when there appears to be declining confidence in government, we should be making the legislative process more open to the public, not less. We strongly oppose the provision in this bill that would make signature gathering within 50 feet of a polling place a Class E crime. For these reasons, we urge the Committee to strike from LD 1726 this unwarranted attack on the democratic process in Maine.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments, and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.