LEWISTON – A liberal-leaning advocacy group has filed a brief with Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court arguing against the inclusion of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights on November’s ballot.
Earlier this month, a lower court ruled that Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap erred when he accepted 4,000 late signatures for TABOR. Without the signatures, supporters of the citizen’s initiative did not have enough to place the measure on the ballot for this year.
The ruling has been appealed to Maine’s highest court, which is expected to hear arguments in the case on April 25. The court will rule on or before May 4. If the Supreme Judicial Court upholds the ruling, TABOR won’t be on the ballot this year.
On April 14, Democracy Maine filed a “friend of the court” brief that supports the lower court’s decision.
In its brief, Democracy Maine argues that Dunlap did not have the discretion to accept the late petition signatures and that his action sets a bad precedent and erodes confidence in the electoral process.
“The initiative and referendum process is very important,” said Jon Crasnick, Democracy Maine’s executive director. Dunlap’s ruling “takes away the trust factor and erodes the process. These deadlines were not unreasonable and they should have been met.”
Crasnick also argues that the Legislature has a mandate to establish rules, including time limits, for voter initiatives and that the secretary of state has no authority to interpret them when they are clear.
“Strict compliance with those rules is necessary to protect the process,” Crasnick said. “If I show up at city hall with my absentee ballot 10 minutes after the deadline, I don’t get to vote, and they’re not going to listen to any excuses.”
If enacted, TABOR would limit spending increases for state and local governments to the rate of inflation and population growth. It would also require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to impose any tax or fee increase or to exceed the spending limits, and mandate that voters approve the action.
According to Crasnick, Democracy Maine has not taken a formal position on TABOR and won’t do so until it is placed on the ballot.
“We’re taking a position on this process,” Crasnick said. “If the court allows petition signatures to be submitted a day late, what happens next time?”
Democracy Maine was founded in April 2005 as a nonprofit, 501(c)(4) organization.
Maine courts were closed Monday for Patriots’ Day.