Secretary of state OKs ballot effort for tribal racino


AUGUSTA (AP) – Backers of a Washington County tribal racino initiative have successfully completed their petition drive, according to state officials.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Wednesday organizers had submitted enough valid signatures – just barely – to get their proposal before the Legislature.

A five-day period remains for opponents seeking to challenge the secretary’s certification, but Dunlap said he believed the approval by his office would stand.

A 577-vote cushion on top of the minimum threshold is “a wafer-thin margin, but we did an awful lot of real culling,” Dunlap said. “We’re pretty confident that the ones that remain will withstand any challenge.”

If lawmakers fail to approve “An Act to Authorize a Tribal Commercial Track and Slot Machines in Washington County,” the proposal will go before statewide voters for a referendum vote.

It would be sent out to voters for either a special election or as a question on a Nov. 6, 2007 general election ballot.

Dunlap said his determination followed a review of petitions containing almost 69,000 signatures.

Organizers needed at least 50,519. After rejecting close to 18,000 on various grounds, Dunlap ruled that 51,096 signatures were valid.

The question posed in the proposed legislation reads: “Do you want to allow a Maine tribe to run a harness racing track with slot machines and high-stakes beano games in Washington County?”

A designated contact for proponents, Frederick J. Moore, III, of Pleasant Point Reservation, could not be reached by telephone immediately for comment.

“The verification and certification process is laborious and precise work, with the right of a citizen to legitimately petition their government hanging in the balance,” Dunlap said in a statement.

“The policy will now be debated by the Legislature and the public,” Dunlap added, crediting the work of state and local elections officials and state. “I am very pleased with the extraordinary efforts to ensure the legitimacy of this instrument of petition.”