Making Democracy Work

Action Alert: LD 1726

Public Hearing

LD 1726. An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Elections

There was a public hearing in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee (VLA) on Wednesday, January 3, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on LD 1726.

The sentiment from the public hearing was overwhelmingly opposed. The VLA Committee voted a divided report, with some members in favor of eliminating the controversial provisions and some looking for a way to institute some limits. The House passed one version, the Senate passed the other. The bill went to final floor votes in the House and Senate on April 2 and 3. Neither side would give. LD 1726 died in non-concurrence. In the end, some important housekeeping provisions for election administration fell victim to the continuing, mostly partisan dispute over restricting citizen initiatives.

More about the Bill

LD 1726. is an otherwise innocuous housekeeping measure from the Office of the Secretary of State that contains one remarkable provision: it would ban the collection of signatures for ballot initiatives in some of the most important places where they have traditionally been collected -- on Election Day at polling places, in the building where voting is taking place, within 50 feet of the entrance to the building, and within a 50-foot pathway between the parking lot and the entrance to the building. See Section 13 in the bill. The bill also bans candidates within that zone, as well as non-profit fundraising

The Legislature has been considering numerous measures over the last couple of years regarding constraints on the initiative process. This measure, if it passes, will certainly have the effect of making it harder for citizen initiatives to qualify for the ballot. It will also have the perverse effect of ensuring that the only measures that can succeed are those that are well-financed from the beginning, increasing the role of big, out-of-state money in the process.

The League's Position

The League of Women Voters is a consensus-based membership organization that takes no position on any issue without member understanding and agreement. We have an important study coming up later this year regarding the citizen initiative processes, its appropriate uses and constraints. Pending the completion of that study, we will testify Neither For Nor Against LD 1726, but we will be there -- no snow in the forecast at this writing -- to make sure committee members know that this is no mere housekeeping measure, but a significant policy change to the citizen initiative process with serious consequences for the decades-long tradition in the way that this provision of the Maine State Constitution has been implemented.