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Laws governing local ballot measures in Maine

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Laws Governing Local Ballot Measures

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Maine Constitution
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Almost all cities and towns in Maine have an initiative process for local ballot measures.

This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Maine. It explains:

  • Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
  • How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
  • An overview of laws governing local recall elections.

Types of local government

Local government in Maine consists of:

504 General Purpose units, including:

  • 16 Counties
  • 22 Cities
  • 432 Towns
  • 34 Plantations

337 Special Purpose units, including:

  • 238 Special Districts
  • 99 Independent School Districts[1][2]


Further classifications:

Counties may be:

  • Home rule charter: of which there are 3 (Cumberland, Arrostook, and Knox County).
  • General Law: of which there are 13.

Cities and towns: Cities and towns have home rule authority through the second part of Article VIII of the Maine Constitution.

  • All 22 Cities have a charter.
  • Towns may adopt a charter to fully exercise home rule powers. 53 have done so.[3]

School districts

See also: School bond and tax elections in Maine

In Maine, school districts are required to have elections to approve a budget or to issue new bonding and or bond taxes. Regional school districts have budgets set on a triennial basis (every three years) while school administrative units approve their budgets annually. New Hampshire is one of three states along with New Jersey and Connecticut requiring the annual or triennial budget to be approved by the voters. If a budget is not approved by the voters, it is up to the board to come up with another budget that will be approved by the voters.

Local recall rules

According to the book Local Government in Maine, published in 1979 (with a 2005 update) by the Maine Municipal Association:

"In some communities, voters can remove an elected official from office before his or her term expires. Such recall provisions, if included in a town or city charter or local ordinance, allow the citizens, after presenting a valid petition, to vote on whether or not they want to allow an official to continue serving in an office to which he or she was elected."[4]
For additional detail, see: Laws governing recall in Maine

Campaign finance rules

See also: Campaign finance requirements for Maine ballot measures

Initiative process availability

  • Towns and plantations that use the town-meeting form of government have a mandated initiative-like process to place articles in the warrant, have proposals considered at the town meeting, and place articles on the next ballot.
  • Charter cities have authority to adopt an initiative process for ordinances.
  • City and town charters may be amended through a mandated initiative process.[5]

Authority

A guide to local ballot initiatives
Local Ballot Initiatives cover.jpg

Constitution

Maine Constitution, Article IV, Part Third, Sec. 21 grants authority for cities to adopt an initiative and referendum process for ordinances.

The city council of any city may establish the direct initiative and people's veto for the electors of such city in regard to its municipal affairs, provided that the ordinance establishing and providing the method of exercising such direct initiative and people's veto shall not take effect until ratified by vote of a majority of the electors of said city, voting thereon at a municipal election. Provided, however, that the Legislature may at any time provide a uniform method for the exercise of the initiative and referendum in municipal affairs.[6]

Maine Constitution, Article VIII, Part Second, Sec. 1 grants authority for city charter amendment.

Statutes

The Town Meeting initiative process is granted in the Maine Revised Statutes Section 30-a-2522, Section 30-a-2528(5).

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: ME Rev. Stat. Sec. 30-a-2522 ME Rev. Stat. Sec. 30-a-2528

A charter amendment initiative process is granted in the Maine Revised Statutes Section 30-a.2104. However, statutes make a distinction between a charter amendment (which may be proposed by initiative and adopted at an election) and charter revision (which requires a formal charter commission). The determination of the distinction is left to the municipal officers.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: ME Rev. Stat. Sec. 30-a-2104

Initiative process features

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Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns

Towns with town meeting government


Charter cities and towns


Initiative in the top 10 most populated cities

List of Most Populated Cities in Maine
City[7] Population City Type Next election
Portland 66,363 Charter N/A
Lewiston 36,491 Charter N/A
Bangor 33,011 Charter N/A
South Portland 25,068 Charter N/A
Auburn 22,985 Charter N/A
Biddeford 21,386 Charter N/A
Augusta 19,103 Charter N/A
Saco 18,581 Charter N/A
Westbrook 17,540 Charter N/A
Waterville 15,697 Charter N/A

The top 10 most populated cities in Maine are all governed under a home rule charter. Initiative is available for charter amendments as detailed above. In addition, all 10 grant initiative for ordinances. The provisions below come from the specific city charter or code. Click on the links to view the full requirements for initiative.



References

External links