According to the Secretary of State, a signature gathering campaign to attempt to give controversial Las Vegas gambling impresario Shawn Scott the sole right to build a casino in York County, failed to qualify for this year’s November ballot.
Of the 91,294 signatures submitted by the Harness Racing Jobs Fairness campaign, only 35,518 were deemed valid, according to Maine election officials. In order to qualify for November’s ballot, the campaign needed to submit 61,123 signatures to the Secretary of State by February 1. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mark Dunlap indicated that his office may request the Attorney General’s office review of some of the irregularities found in the signature gathering campaign. However, said Dunlap, it is likely that his office will wait to see if the findings are appealed by the campaign. There is a 10-day window for the certification decision to be appealed by the campaign, which would be reviewed by Maine Superior Court.
In an effort to bring a casino or slot gaming facility to the York County area, Harness Racing Jobs Fairness hired Olympic Consulting, which is owned and operated by the former chairman of the Androscoggin County Republican Committee, Stavros Mendros, to gather the signatures required to bring a casino referendum to voters in November.
Dunlap said that his office isn’t equipped to make the call of whether the irregularities constitute criminal activity. He said, “Some of the biggest swaths of invalid signatures were people who weren’t registered to vote. Some of the technical problems that were fairly serious in our view were around the circulators’ oaths. It was clear just by looking at the documents that somebody had a stack of petitions and somebody was just notarizing them,” as reported by the Portland Press Herald.
According to Maine law, an affidavit must be signed by a petition circulator in the presence of a public notary swearing that the act of signing was personally witnessed by him or her. The responsibility for determining that the circulator is who they claim to be rests with the notaries. Dunlap said there are many instances where the notary’s signature hasn’t matched the one the state had on file. He said that his office doesn’t set out looking for reasons to disqualify signatures, but they do look to verify they are made properly. The Secretary of State said he’s confident the decision by his office will survive an appeal.
The aggressive signature gathering campaign was financed by Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott, and at one point petition circulators were being paid between $7 and $10 per signature. A number of complaints from voters regarding aggressive tactics resulted from the campaign, and late in January petition circulators claimed they were not paid for their work.
Indicators suggested early that qualifying would be no small feat for the campaign. Dunlap said widespread reports from municipal clerks regarding duplicate signatures on petitions and shoddy work were received last month. The Bangor city clerk reported in early February that only 2,913 of the 6,869 signatures gathered in Bangor appeared to be valid and from registered voters.