Protect the Citizen Initiative Process

Protect the Citizen Initiative Process

On Monday, Oct 24, the Maine legislature voted to disregard the vote of 52% of Maine voters by postponing, and eventually repealing, the Ranked Choice Voting law. This law was passed a year ago in November, 2016 by nearly 400,000 Maine voters through a Citizen Initiative vote.

All of our legislators put in a lot of hours, even when not in session, for very little pay. They do this because they care and want to make laws that benefit Maine citizens as a whole. It is a tough job, one that few can do, and they deserve a heartfelt “Thank You” for the personal sacrifices they make for us. On the other hand, to quote a Kennebec Journal article, “It would (have been) much simpler if lawmakers would just listen to the people and give them the electoral system they voted for”.

Lawmakers opposed to RCV worked all year to repeal it. They asked the Maine Supreme Court to rule RCV unconstitutional without success. The individual justices, not the court itself, gave an opinion that RCV might not apply to elections for governor or the legislature. The Maine constitution calls for a plurality in those elections but all primaries and congressional elections do not have a plurality restriction. Since RCV applies to all primaries and congressional elections, opponents attempted to repeal RCV completely without success.


Rep Kent Ackley had a compromise. He proposed a bill that would allow RCV to be used for all primaries and congressional elections but suspend it for governor and legislature elections until the constitution could be amended to include those as well. The House voted for the bill but the Senate didn’t. The House then capitulated to the whims of the Senate and subsequently voted to delay, and eventually repeal, the RCV law.

Although reinstating the RCV law is the goal, the larger picture is whether or not the Maine legislature is going to respect the vote of the Maine people. So far they have not fully implemented ANY of the Citizen Initiative ballot questions that were passed a year ago. Is this what you as a Maine voter expected from your legislature? I didn’t think so.

A People’s Veto referendum has been organized to put a hold on the legal but unethical decision the Maine legislature made. You will likely see volunteers at your voting place on Election Day in November gathering signatures for this referendum. Once the signatures are verified RCV becomes law, again, and the question to approve it permanently will be on the June 2018 primary ballot. Some people who opposed RCV are going to sign the petition because they feel strongly that voting is a sacred right. The legislature cannot change what the people voted for just because they don’t like the outcome. One person who opposed RCV and gun background checks is signing the People’s Veto because, he argued, not implementing a law the voters passed is the same as enacting a law the voters rejected. He asked “How would those who voted against background checks feel if the legislature voted to implement background checks that the voters rejected?”

Maine voters can repeal laws the legislature passed because Maine is one of only 8 states to have a Citizen Initiative that allows a People’s Veto referendum. That law is as sacred as voting. Without a People’s Veto we would not have same-day registration today. Maine has had same-day registration since 1973 but in 2011 the Maine legislature voted to repeal it. A People’s Veto was organized and same-day registration was restored by a 60 to 40 percent vote. If everyone who supports having a Citizen Initiative signs the petition we can return control of Maine’s future to the voters.

I urge you to sign the People’s Veto petition at your voting place on Election Day in November, even if you do not support RCV. Signing the petition means you expect the Maine legislature to not only respect your vote but to respect the vote of others as well. It also means that when the legislature passes a law you don’t like you will still have the right to a People’s Veto to change that law. In June of this year the Maine House voted to make gathering referendum signatures more difficult. It has not been enacted, yet, but if delaying and repealing RCV is allowed to stand, the legislature will become more emboldened and may repeal the Citizen Initiative Process, and the People’s Veto, along with it.

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