Maine’s effort to legalize marijuana is now continuing forward.
Superior Court judge Justice Michaela Murphy has determined that state officials from the office of Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap improperly invalidated hundreds of thousands of signatures due to a handwriting discrepancy of a notary. Dunlap’s office has been ordered to go back and review the signatures again.
David Boyer, manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said,
“We’re confident voters will be able to vote on this, on taxed marijuana. We’re pretty confident. We were confident when we submitted. We were confident when we submitted our appeal. We know they are good signatures.”
Justice Murphy wrote in her 26-page ruling,“While the state of Maine has a compelling interest to ensure that all petitions submitted for consideration in a direct initiative are valid, requiring a notary’s signature to appear identically on every petition is unreasonable and abridges the constitutional right to initiative. The state has presented no evidence, and the court is aware of none, correlating the variability of a notary’s signature with incidences of fraud in administering the circulator’s oath.”
Justice Murphy has placed the burden of proof on Dunlap’s office, explaining that a handwriting discrepancy does not equal fraud.
“The secretary of state did not determine that the notaries whose signatures varied from the signatures on their commissions did not properly administer the circulators’ oath. Instead, he claims he was unable to determine whether the notary signatures belonged to those notaries,”
From the beginning, the Secretary of State’s move to invalidate signatures was a fumbled message, with Spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski suggesting their office had made contact with the notary in question, followed by a contradicting statement by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap indicating they had not.
Scott Gagnon, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, opposes cannabis legalization and is disappointed in the ruling. “It will open the door to elections fraud in Maine. We will be watching closely how this unfolds as it goes back to the secretary of state,” Gagnon said in a statement. “We will certainly be examining all options and strategies for the weeks and months ahead, and we will be prepared should this indeed find its way to the ballot in November.”
For now, David Boyer is looking forward to progress. “We’re definitely excited,” he said. “We’ve been in limbo for the last month.”