Two citizen initiatives certified to the state legislature in Maine

On Nov. 30, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows confirmed that two citizen initiative campaigns—Protect Maine Elections and Our Power—submitted enough signatures for each initiative to be certified to the state legislature. Each initiative will have a chance of being approved by the state legislature or appearing on the Nov. 2023 ballot.

In Maine, the valid signature requirement to be certified to the state legislature is currently 63,067 valid signatures. This number is calculated as 10% of the total votes cast for the previous gubernatorial election. Both campaigns exceeded the valid signature requirement.

The Protect Maine Elections campaign submitted 67,550 valid signatures on Nov. 1, 2022. The initiative would prohibit election spending by foreign governments, including entities with partial foreign government ownership or control. The campaign said, “Our initiative stops foreign governments from spending in Maine elections, imposes new public disclosure requirements on foreign entities that engage in issue advertising, and requires that media companies disclose illegal spending by foreign powers.”

The other campaign, Our Power Maine, submitted 69,735 valid signatures on Oct. 31, 2022. The initiative would create a municipal consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company, which would replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant. Our Power Maine stated, “The company’s purposes are to provide for its customer-owners in this State reliable, affordable electric transmission and distribution services and to help the State meet its climate, energy and connectivity goals in the most rapid and affordable manner possible.” The campaign opposing the initiative, the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, said that the initiative would result in higher electric bills. The coalition said, “A scheme to seize Maine’s electric grid by eminent domain would create a government-controlled utility — and we would all be on the hook for the cost.”

Both initiatives are indirect initiatives. Unlike direct citizen initiatives, which are certified to the ballot after a campaign submits enough valid signatures, an indirect initiative goes to the state legislature first. 

In Maine, a citizen initiative can only appear on the ballot as an indirect initiative. The initiative only goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative, or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative, and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

There were no measures on the Maine ballot in 2022. The last indirect initiative to appear on the ballot was in 2020, when voters approved an initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.

So far, there are no ballot questions on the 2023 Maine ballot. If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on either submitted initiative, they will go to Maine voters at the election on November 7, 2023. 

Other initiative petitions in Maine are still circulating. The deadline to submit signatures to the secretary of state is Jan. 26, 2023.