League Study On Maine's Citizens' Initiatives And People's Veto Referenda

Position in Brief:

The League of Women Voters believes that responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people. The League has long-established positions that encourage citizen participation in government, endorse citizens’ right to know, hold representative government to standards of accountability, and support campaign finance regulation and transparency in political campaigns. 

Against this backdrop, the League of Women Voters of Maine (LWVME) supports protecting the right of Maine citizens to propose and veto legislation through a state-wide, citizen-initiated petition process.

In furtherance of this right, LWVME supports:

  • Keeping administrative barriers low so that the process itself and information about the process are accessible to ordinary citizens wishing to initiate or veto legislation, including instructions for sponsors that are comprehensive, easily available, and understandable;
  • Ensuring that the signature threshold and other requirements for filing CI/PVR petitions are rigorous enough to prevent frivolous proposals that stand little chance of being approved by voters, but not so difficult as to discourage grassroots efforts to initiate or repeal legislation;
  • Government-provided voter information about pending CI/PVR questions that is appropriate to the general audience, adequately funded, and widely distributed; this includes ensuring (1) that information provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election and on ballots and petitions themselves is unbiased, appropriate for each type of document, and understandable by ordinary citizens; and (2) that any pro/con positions from public hearings or other sources are available to the public in a timely manner; and
  • Campaign finance regulation of CI/PVR that requires full disclosure by all donors to ballot question initiatives (including but not limited to individuals, corporations, ballot question committees, and PACs), effective enforcement of campaign finance legislation by designated government agencies, and adequate funding of those agencies to insure timely and easy access by the public to the online data base and summary information.

LWVME opposes:

  • Geographic restrictions for signature collection on CI/PVR petitions,
  • Limitations on the area of law that can be covered by CI/PVR, and
  • Introduction of a citizen-initiated process for Constitutional Amendments

The LWVME's Citizen Initiative Study Committee began a comprehensive review of the history, processes, uses, restrictions and financing of Maine's citizen-initiated legislation and referenda in November 2018. The study concluded in the fall of 2020 and culminated in the position cited above. The Committee researched information from a variety of reliable, balanced sources to inform membership about the strengths and weaknesses of the current systems, the pros/cons of alternative systems and possible changes. Although 23 states have some type of initiative process (see map), only a few other state Leagues have studied this topic and none of them has systems comparable to Maine's, so we did an original consensus study.

Initiatives and Referenda Laws by State

We have finished writing up our research, preparing a Study Report, and developing a Consensus Question Packet for the use of local units (see links to documents in Citizen Initiative Resources below). The next step was for local units to meet to discuss the report and come to consensus on the issues raised by the Study Committee.

Study Committee members included: Beth Basham (South Portland), Barbara Kaufman (Freeport), Valerie Kelly (Peaks Island), Kim Peaslee (Peaks Island), and Judy Whiting (Manchester). Suzanne Carmichael (Deer Isle) was also a committee member from Nov 2018 through April 2019.


Citizens' Initiative Resources

CI Study Committee Documents:

Maine Government Electronic Resources:

  • Click here to see all Citizen Initiatives considered by Maine voters 1910-2018.
  • Click here to see all People's Vetoes considered by Maine voters through the years.