LEWISTON — Monday is the deadline for citizen-initiated campaigns to submit signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to qualify for the November ballot.

Of the active petitions, half hired Olympic Consulting in Lewiston to send field workers out to collect signatures, a pay-for-signature process that came under fire earlier this week when workers accused the company’s owner, Stavros Mendros, of failing to pay them for their work and not ensuring a registered Maine voter witnessed each signature, as required by law.

Messages left with Mendros for comment were not returned.

On Tuesday, “Stand up for Students,” the campaign led by the Maine Education Association to increase state funding for education to 55 percent by creating a 3 percent surcharge on Maine’s top 2 percent of income earners, said it may withhold some of the signatures gathered by Olympic Consulting because the signatures weren’t needed.

According to Maine Education Association’s Giovanna Bechard, the group collected more than 95,000 signatures, well over the required 61,123 needed to qualify for the ballot. Olympic Consulting collected 2,000 of those signatures.

But David Boyer of Falmouth, who is organizing the effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine, has confidence in Olympic Consulting’s work.


The campaign, which is the consolidation of two competing marijuana petitions, hired Mendros in the early days of its effort to gather signatures and then relied on grass-roots volunteers to gather the majority, with a special push on Election Day, Boyer said Wednesday.

He couldn’t say exactly how many signatures were delivered by Mendros’ crew, but he said organizers submitted petitions to town clerks for verification as each was turned in.

“We’ve gotten those back from the towns, so we know we’ve gotten valid signatures from Maine voters,” he said.

The marijuana petitioners will spend the weekend organizing paperwork to ensure they have the needed signatures, but Boyer said he’s confident they’ll reach a total count of at least 65,000 signatures.

“We’re feeling pretty sure about where we stand,” he said, adding that he expects to see the marijuana question on the ballot.

To qualify for the ballot, petitions must contain at least 61,123 signatures of registered Maine voters, which equals 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor in November 2014.


The citizen petition to amend state welfare laws and lower the individual income tax rate to 4 percent, backed by nearly $20,000 in contributions from the Maine Republican Party and over $50,000 by Maine businesses and private citizens, also hired Olympic Consulting to gather signatures, according to campaign finance reports.

Last fall, Mendros was paid $4,000 to gather signatures. The group also hired Maine Initiative Source in Auburn to gather signatures, paying $17,000 in September. Helen Tutwiler of Gardiner was paid $360 on Dec. 28, 2015, and that amount again on Dec. 30, 2015, to do the same.

Richard Bennett, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, is the registered proponent on this campaign. In a voice mail message to the Sun Journal, Bennett said the campaign is still tallying signatures and he wasn’t prepared to talk about the status of its petitions until later in the week.

Horseracing Jobs Fairness in Augusta, which is petitioning to allow slot machines or a casino in York County, paid two companies to gather signatures: Mendros was paid $111,935 and the Silver Bullet Group in Cheyenne, Wyo., was paid $15,000.

Several days ago, a number of out-of-state circulators hired to get those signatures accused Mendros of not paying them for their work and not providing a registered Maine voter to witness signatures by circulators whom Mendros brought to Maine from Florida.

A number of those circulators filed complaints with Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who briefed the state attorney general’s office. According to Dunlap’s spokeswoman, the secretary is taking the complaints seriously.


On Monday, Mendros issued checks to a number of his circulators at a meeting at America’s Best Value Inn in Auburn, but many have since complained to the Sun Journal that he paid only a portion of what was owed.

Circulators have also told the Sun Journal that some signatures were not witnessed, some were faked and still others were copied from signatures obtained for unrelated petitions.

According to Kristen Muszynski, communications director for the Secretary of State’s Office, when town clerks receive petitions, they check names, addresses and signatures against the voter rolls to verify the signatory is a registered voter. Part of the verification process is to reject duplicate names.

Under normal circumstances, Muszynski said, signatures on one petition are not cross-checked against a petition for a different referendum question, but when clerks check names, they’re also looking at the signature on file to make sure it matches.

A signature that doesn’t match what appears on the voter registry would not be considered valid, she said, and any petition that carried multiple signatures in the same handwriting would raise red flags.

A number of petitions have already been delivered to the secretary of state. None has any connection to Olympic Consulting.


The first among them, a petition to establish ranked-choice voting for U.S. senator, U.S. representative to Congress, governor and all state senator and representative offices after Jan. 1, 2018, included 64,897 valid signatures and has already been certified and will be on the ballot.

A petition asking voters to approve a raise in the minimum wage was submitted to the secretary of state on Jan. 14 with 85,000 signatures, according to organizer Amy Halsted, associate director of the Maine People’s Alliance. Of those, she said, 75,000 were validated as registered voters by town clerks, but the petition has not yet been certified for the ballot.

According to state campaign finance reports, the measure is backed by MPA, Mainers for Fair Wages, The Fairness Project Maine based in Stanford, Calif., and the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

“We’re confident we’re going to be on the ballot,” Halsted said.

This petition asks voters to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2017, and $1 per year every year until it reaches $12 per hour in 2020. After that, the minimum wage would increase at the same rate as the cost of living.

Halsted said her campaign gathered 30,000 of its signatures at polling places on Election Day “where we know they were registered to vote because they had actually voted,” and the remaining signatures were gathered by hundreds of volunteers and a crew of paid signature gatherers.


The Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense petition to require background checks for private gun sales in Maine has also been delivered to the secretary of state with 85,436 signatures.

The $1 million campaign, principally funded through the New York City-based Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, submitted its signatures on Jan. 19, but the petition has not yet been certified for the ballot, according to state records.

The campaign contracted with FieldWorks in Washington, D.C., to gather signatures, paying the firm $190,698.


Comments are no longer available on this story