On Feb. 21, 2023, the Maine secretary of state announced that enough valid signatures were submitted for the “Right to Repair Act” initiative, allowing it to be certified to the Maine State Legislature.
Out of the 83,252 signatures submitted by the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee on Jan. 19, 2023, 74,686 of the signatures were found to be valid. This met the 67,682 minimum valid signature requirement to be certified to the legislature.
The initiative will now await action from the legislature. In Maine, a citizen initiative can only appear on the ballot as an indirect initiative. The initiative 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.
The initiative would allow car owners and independent repair facilities to have the same access to onboard diagnostic systems and wireless data that manufacturers and approved repair facilities have access to. According to the Autocare Association, 50% of cars transmitted vehicle data wirelessly and directly only to vehicle manufacturers in 2021, while 95% of new vehicles sold globally will likely have this connectivity in 2030.
Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tires and Service and one of the members of the initiative campaign, said, “Unfortunately, many of these newest vehicles, that wireless data is fed automatically back to the car manufacturers and is not available to independent shops like ourselves. So that’s all that we are asking for is a level playing field so that independent repair shops can have access to the same data as the car manufacturers and their network of dealerships has.”
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), an organization that has opposed the initiative, said that it was unnecessary.
“Mainers already can have their car repaired by any repair shop they choose,” AAI said, “And all the information needed to diagnose and repair a vehicle today is also already made available to all vehicle repair shops. But the ballot initiative does pose a real cybersecurity and privacy threat to Maine’s drivers.”
There were no measures on the Maine ballot in 2022. The last indirect initiative to appear on the ballot was in 2021, when voters approved an initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.
If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on the submitted initiatives, they will go to Maine voters at the election on Nov. 7, 2023.