Maine’s attorney general is considering whether to file charges related to a 2021 petition effort to prohibit noncitizens from voting in municipal elections that has been deemed “rife with fraud.”

Proponents didn’t gather enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. The effort was led by We the People, a political action committee controlled by House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, and a national conservative group called Liberty Initiative Fund – Maine.

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Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows Matthew Hinton/Associated Press, file

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows told lawmakers last week that her office referred the case to the AG after discovering that 40% – more than 25,000 – of the roughly 66,400 signatures submitted were invalid. Bellows said petition collectors and people whose names appeared fraudulently on the petitions were interviewed.

“We can’t speak to the details of the law enforcement investigation,” Bellows said. “The information was sufficient to indicate to law enforcement that there was substantial fraud and that has been referred to the Office of the Attorney General. Whether that rises to the level of prosecution lies with the (AG’s office).”

Bellows did not say how many invalid signatures were believed fraudulent.

A spokesperson for the attorney general would not answer questions about when the referral was made, the review’s status and whom the investigation is targeting.


“I can confirm that a referral came in” said Danna Hayes, a special assistant to the attorney general. “Our office does not comment on investigations so I cannot comment further.”

Faulkingham said he was unaware of the possible fraud and referral to the AG until he was contacted by a reporter from the Bangor Daily News, which reported Bellows’ comments Monday. Faulkingham said he expects charges to be filed, but not against him or his PAC.

“They haven’t called me,” Faulkingham said.

Paul Rossi, an attorney representing We the People PAC, said that, to the campaign’s knowledge, only one member – someone who acted as a witness and attested to the validity of voter signatures – was contacted about the investigation. That individual had already been fired because they were deemed untrustworthy, he said. Rossi said the campaign would support prosecuting anyone found to have engaged in fraud.

“We want fraudsters to be prosecuted,” Rossi said.

If charges are filed, it would not be the first time in Maine that a petition effort has led to prosecution. Lewiston resident Stavros Mendros pled guilty in 2007 to not following proper procedure in his capacity as a notary public while working on a casino referendum drive.


The noncitizen voting petition drive also is the subject of an unrelated legal dispute over the use of signature gatherers who are not Maine residents.

Bellows told lawmakers that initiative organizers successfully sued the state in 2021 after state officials said out-of-state gatherers could not collect signatures for a citizen referendum. The state is in settlement negotiations after the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that out-of-state residents could collect signatures.

Bellows said the settlement could require the state to pay We the People PAC tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars – a cost that would have to be approved by the Legislature.

While the targets of the investigation are unclear, Bellows warned lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee last Wednesday not to assume the investigation is focused on out-of-state signature gatherers, saying “many” of those interviewed were Maine residents.

“It just happens to be a petition that was rife with fraud and a petition that was the subject of litigation for which the Division of Elections will have to pay legal fees,” she said.

The petition effort was organized by Auburn resident James Tracey, who was paid more than $600,000 by The Liberty Initiative Fund – Maine and more than $65,000 by the We the People PAC. The Liberty Initiative Fund also paid Oakland resident Mathew Boucher $8,000 and Tenafly, N.J.-resident Franklyn Gonzalez $3,000 for work on the petition drive.


Tracey did not respond to a voicemail or text message seeking an interview. A message left on a phone number associated with Boucher was not returned, and a phone number listed for Gonzalez was not accepting voicemail.

Rossi, the PAC attorney, said didn’t believe investigators had contacted Tracey.

The citizens initiative grew out of a 2018 debate in Portland about allowing noncitizens to vote in municipal elections.

Noncitizens cannot vote in federal or state elections, but whether they can vote in municipal elections is unclear. Portland officials were advised by an attorney that the city would likely end up in court if they went ahead with the proposal.

Faulkingham sought unsuccessfully to amend the Maine Constitution in 2019 to prohibit noncitizens from voting in municipal elections. After that failed, the citizen initiative was launched by We the People, which received more than $350,000 from the Liberty Initiative Fund.

Attorney General Aaron Frey testified against Faulkingham’s proposed constitutional amendments in both 2019 and earlier this year, arguing that state statutes already specify that a person “must be a citizen of the United States” to vote in elections in Maine.

The allegations of petition fraud come after Rep. Clinton E. Collamore Sr., D-Waldoboro, was indicted in December on multiple counts of aggravated forgery, unsworn falsification and violations of the Clean Election Act, according to the Dec. 15 indictment filed in Lincoln County Superior Court.

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, has called on Callamore to resign.

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