Signatures stream into Augusta on 2016 referendum deadline day

David Boyer, left,  Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, and lobbyist Jay Nutting delivered signatures to the state Monday for a 2016 ballot question asking Mainers to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Some in the state's medical marijuana community opposed to Boyer's organization protested. (Scott Thistle - Sun Journal)

David Boyer, left, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, and lobbyist Jay Nutting delivered signatures to the state Monday for a 2016 ballot question asking Mainers to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Some in the state’s medical marijuana community opposed to Boyer’s organization protested. (Scott Thistle – Sun Journal)

It’s looking like Maine could have six major referendums on the November 2016 ballot, deciding on marijuana legalization, increasing K-12 funding, a new casino, increasing the minimum wage, requiring background checks for all gun purchases, and establishing a statewide ranked-choice voting system.

Monday is the deadline for citizen initiative efforts to submit more than 61,000 signatures to the state to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

Perhaps the most significant development on deadline day was that backers of a controversial effort for a casino in York County told Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office that they have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, according to Dunlap spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski.

That’s not final: Dunlap’s office will have 30 days to certify the signatures for the effort, and questions have been raised about the validity of many of the casino signatures, which were gathered in just over a month by people who were paid as much as $10 per signature.

Muszynski said the casino signatures were dropped off at about 4 p.m. on Monday. Supporters of the K-12 effort dropped theirs off earlier in the day, as did backers of a marijuana legalization campaign that sparked a small counter-protest from a splinter group of marijuana advocates who object to out-of-state interests getting involved in the legalization effort.

The ranked-choice voting effort was certified for the ballot in November and the minimum wage and background check campaigns filed their signatures in January. After efforts are certified, their proposals go to the Legislature, which most often doesn’t act on them and thereby sends them to the ballot.

There’s still more to report, but it’s looking like 2016’s election will be a busy one.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.