Difference between revisions of "History of Initiative & Referendum in Maine"

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In 1908, [[Maine]] became the first state east of the [[Mississippi]] to adopt a constitutional provision for statewide [[Initiative Definition|initiative]] and [[Referendum Definition|referendum]]. It could not have happened without the work of the state's foremost I&R advocate, [[Roland T. Patten]] of Skowhegan.
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{{TOCnestright}}{{History update}}
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In 1908, [[Maine]] became the first state east of the [[Mississippi]] to adopt a [[constitutional amendment|constitutional provision]] for statewide [[Initiative Definition|initiative]] and [[Referendum Definition|referendum]], with the adoption in a statewide vote of [[Maine Constitution#Article IV: State legislature|Article VI, Part 3, Section 18]].  The constitutional amendment providing for initiative and referendum was the 29th amendment to the Maine Constitution.<ref name="Palmer">[http://books.google.com/books?id=fFOv5d3Mbf4C&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=amending+Maine+Constitution&source=web&ots=ABuTUPdkfJ&sig=7C-jeRGX1jHEyS73mbVNtCzgFVo&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result ''The Constitutionalism of the American States'', Kenneth Palmer and Jonathan Thomas, University of Missouri Press, 2008, p. 28]</ref>
  
In the early 1980s, Patten, editor of the Skowhegan Somerset Reporter, was an advocate of municipal ownership of public utilities. "About 1894," he wrote, he "heard something of the idea [of I&R] as made use of in Switzerland" and realized that I&R could be used in the cause of municipal ownership.
+
It could not have happened without the work of the state's foremost I&R advocate, [[Roland Patten]] of Skowhegan.
 +
 
 +
In the early 1900s, Patten, editor of the Skowhegan Somerset Reporter, was an advocate of municipal ownership of public utilities. "About 1894," he wrote, he "heard something of the idea [of I&R] as made use of in Switzerland" and realized that I&R could be used in the cause of municipal ownership.
  
 
A member of the Republican Party, he first pushed for adoption of an I&R resolution at the Republican convention in his county. Failing there, he became a leader of the state's Socialist Party and lobbied all four of the state's major parties - Republican, Democratic, Socialist, and Prohibitionist - to endorse I&R. In 1902 Maine Democrats adopted Patten's I&R resolution verbatim, and in 1903 Democratic State Representative Cyrus W. Davis of Waterville introduced the first statewide I&R bill.
 
A member of the Republican Party, he first pushed for adoption of an I&R resolution at the Republican convention in his county. Failing there, he became a leader of the state's Socialist Party and lobbied all four of the state's major parties - Republican, Democratic, Socialist, and Prohibitionist - to endorse I&R. In 1902 Maine Democrats adopted Patten's I&R resolution verbatim, and in 1903 Democratic State Representative Cyrus W. Davis of Waterville introduced the first statewide I&R bill.
 +
[[Image:Roland patten.jpg|thumb|left|Roland Patten, pictured with a helmet.  Source: Maine Memory Network]]
 +
==Initiative and Referendum League of Maine==
  
 
Meanwhile, Patten had founded the [[Initiative and Referendum League of Maine]] and had allied with the state Grange and the state Federation of Labor. In 1905 they nearly succeeded: their I&R bill got a tie vote in the state senate. The following year all four parties endorsed I&R, and Davis made it a central issue in his Democratic gubernatorial campaign.
 
Meanwhile, Patten had founded the [[Initiative and Referendum League of Maine]] and had allied with the state Grange and the state Federation of Labor. In 1905 they nearly succeeded: their I&R bill got a tie vote in the state senate. The following year all four parties endorsed I&R, and Davis made it a central issue in his Democratic gubernatorial campaign.
  
Davis lost to Republican William T. Cobb, who was lukewarm on the issue, but the I&R League succeeded in electing more I&R supporters to the legislature. Despite opposition from banks, timberland owners, and railroads, the legislature passed an initiative bill without a single dissent. However, it was not exactly what the I&R League wanted: it provided for initiative statutes, but not constitutional amendments. The Republicans, who controlled both houses of the legislature, forced the initiative advocates to accept this compromise because they feared that an initiative constitutional amendment might be used to repeal their state's Prohibition amendment.
+
Davis lost to Republican William T. Cobb, who was lukewarm on the issue, but the I&R League succeeded in electing more I&R supporters to the legislature. Despite opposition from banks, timberland owners, and railroads, the legislature passed an initiative bill without a single dissent.
  
Governor Cobb signed the I&R amendment on March 20, 1907, but it still had to be ratified by popular vote before taking effect. In the 18 months prior to this vote, most of the state's newspapers published editorials opposing I&R, and Maine's U.S. Senator Hale sent his constituents copies of a vehement speech opposing it by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of [[Massachusetts]]. Nevertheless, voters approved I&R by a margin of more than two to one on September 15, 1908.
+
==Yes to statutes, no to amendments==
  
The first initiative on the state ballot was a victory for the Progressives: a law mandating the nomination of state and county candidates by popular vote in primary elections, rather than in party conventions. It passed by margin of more than three to one on September 11, 1911.
+
However, it was not exactly what the I&R League wanted: it provided for initiative statutes, but not [[constitutional amendment|constitutional amendments]]. The Republicans, who controlled both houses of the legislature, forced the initiative advocates to accept this compromise because they feared that an initiative constitutional amendment might be used to repeal their state's Prohibition amendment.<ref name="Palmer"/>
Only seven initiatives were on the ballot during the first 60 years of the initiative process, and there were none during the l950s and l960s. The only successful measure after 1911 was a 1936 statute "to prevent diversions of the general highway fund" (to uses others than highways).
+
  
In the l970s Maine voters, like those in other states, rediscovered their power to make laws by initiative. In 1972 they approved an initiative to change the ballot form to eliminate party columns in order to encourage voters to give each candidate independent consideration.
+
Governor Cobb signed the I&R amendment on March 20, 1907, but it still had to be ratified by popular vote before taking effect. In the 18 months prior to this vote, most of the state's newspapers published editorials opposing I&R, and Maine's U.S. Senator Hale sent his constituents copies of a vehement speech opposing it by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of [[Massachusetts]]. Nevertheless, voters approved I&R by a margin of more than two to one on September 15, 1908. The day of the vote the polls opened at 6 a.m. and the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad delayed its 6 a.m. train one half-hour to give male passengers time to vote.  Local mills opened at 7 a.m., an hour later than usual, so male workers could vote before work.  Only a little more half of those who went to the polls bothered to vote either for or against the measure.<ref>[http://bangornews.com/detail/50690.html ''Bangor Daily News'', "People’s veto got its start in 1908", September 15, 2008]</ref>
In the 1970s and 1980s, more than half of Maine's initiatives were about energy and environmental matters. In 1976, voters enacted a beverage container deposit (Bottle Bill) initiative and established a state park at Bigelow Mountain; in 1980 and 1982, they turned down proposed initiatives to ban nuclear power, following massive "Vote No" ad campaigns paid for by the owners of the Maine Yankee nuclear plant. The Maine Nuclear Referendum Committee, sponsors of the nuclear ban initiatives, won only one campaign: a 1985 initiative to require a statewide referendum on any plan to dump low-level radioactive waste.
+
  
In 1986, consumer advocates waged a successful battle against the local telephone company to pass an initiative outlawing local measured service, whereby callers are charged by the minute for local calls. The company had set a campaign spending record with its "Vote No" ads, which featured former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate Edmund Muskie.
+
==The People's Veto==
 +
{{mebm}}
 +
:: ''See [[List of People's Veto ballot measures in Maine]]''
  
However, with the passage of [[term limits]] in the early 90s, state lawmakers began a crusade against the initiative process by passing numerous changes to the states I&R laws. One law that was passed, prohibiting petition [[circulators]] to be paid by signature, was struck down by the Federal Courts as a violation of the [[First Amendment]]. The case was sponsored by the [[Initiative & Referendum Institute]]. Other new laws designed to regulate and restrict the I&R process are likely which will no doubt lead to additional litigation in the state.
+
Maine citizens have taken advantage of their right of [[veto referendum]] twenty-nine times. The first time was in [[1910 ballot measures|1910]] when they rejected [[Maine Alcohol Percentage Veto Vote (1910)|"An Act to Make Uniform the Standard Relating to the Percentage of Alcohol in Intoxicating Liquors"]] with 31,093 in favor of the act, and 40,475 opposed.
  
==External links==
+
Most recently, Mainers took advantage of the People's Veto in [[Maine 2010 ballot measures|2010]] when, in the [[Maine Tax Code People's Veto, Question 1 (June 2010)|Maine Tax Code People's Veto, Question 1 (June 2010) vote]], they rejected the [[Maine State Legislature]]'s proposed tax code changes 193,960 to 124,928.
  
*[http://www.maine.gov/legis/lawlib/inivot.htm Votes on Initiated Bills], a complete list of Maine's initiatives from 1911 to the present, produced by the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library.
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{|class="wikitable" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="5" border="1" style="background:none" style="width:50%;"
*[http://www.maine.gov/legis/lawlib/refvot.htm Votes on Referenda] from 1915 to the present.
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|-
 +
! style="background-color:#00008B; color: white;" | Total veto referenda on the ballot
 +
! style="background-color:#00008B; color: white;" | Legislative acts ratified
 +
! style="background-color:#00008B; color: white;" | Legislative acts rejected
 +
 
 +
|-
 +
| text align="center"| 29
 +
| text align="center"| 12
 +
| text align="center"| 17
 +
 
 +
|}
 +
 
 +
==First initiative in 1911==
 +
 
 +
The first initiative on the state ballot, the [[Maine Direct Primary Law (1911)|Direct Primary Law]], was a victory for the Progressives: a law mandating the nomination of state and county candidates by popular vote in primary elections, rather than in party conventions. It passed by a margin of more than three to one on September 11, 1911.
 +
 
 +
==Low initiative activity==
 +
 
 +
Only seven initiatives were on the ballot during the first 60 years of the initiative process, and there were none during the l950s and l960s. The only successful measure after 1911 was a 1936 statute, the [[Maine Highway Fund Act (1936)]], "to prevent diversions of the general highway fund" to uses others than highways.
 +
 
 +
In the l970s, Maine voters, like those in other states, rediscovered their power to make laws by initiative. In 1972 they approved an initiative, the [[Maine Form of Ballots Act (1972)]], to change the ballot form to eliminate party columns in order to encourage voters to give each candidate independent consideration.
 +
 
 +
==Energy and environment take center stage==
 +
[[Image:Maine Yankee.jpg|thumb|The Maine Yankee in Wiscasset, Maine.  Closed in 1996]]
 +
In the 1970s and 1980s, more than half of Maine's initiatives were about energy and [[:Category:Environment, Maine|environmental matters]]. In 1976, voters enacted a beverage container deposit (the [[Maine Bottle Bill Act (1979)|Bottle Bill]]) initiative and established a state park at [[Maine Bigelow Mountain Initiative (1976)|Bigelow Mountain]]; in 1980 and 1982, they turned down proposed initiatives to ban nuclear power, following massive "Vote No" ad campaigns paid for by the owners of the [[Wikipedia:Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant|Maine Yankee nuclear plant]]. The Maine Nuclear Referendum Committee, sponsors of the nuclear ban initiative, won only one campaign: the [[Maine Referenda on Nuclear Waste (1985)|Maine Radioactive Waste Referendum]] in 1985.  This statute required that any proposal to dump low-level radioactive waste in the state of Maine must be put to a statewide vote.
 +
 
 +
In 1986, consumer advocates waged a successful battle against the local telephone company to pass an initiative, the [[Maine Telephone Service Act (1986)|Telephone Service Act]], outlawing local measured service, whereby callers are charged by the minute for local calls. The company had set a campaign spending record with its "Vote No" ads, which featured former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate Edmund Muskie.
 +
 
 +
==State lawmakers react against term limits==
 +
 
 +
However, with the passage of [[term limits]] in the early 90s, state lawmakers began a crusade against the initiative process by passing numerous changes to the state's I&R laws. One such new law prohibiting petition [[circulator|circulators]] to be paid by signature.  This law was struck down by the Federal Courts as a violation of the [[First Amendment]]. The lawsuit was sponsored by the [[Initiative & Referendum Institute]].
 +
 
 +
==Changes in law over time==
 +
 
 +
At first, the [[Maine signature requirements|number of signatures]] required to qualify an initiative for the ballot was 8%, and the number required to qualify a referendum for or referendum for the ballot was 5%.<ref>[http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/initpak.htm ''Maine Secretary of State'', "Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions'']</ref>
 +
 
 +
==External links==
  
====References====
+
* [http://www.maine.gov/legis/lawlib/inivot.htm Votes on Initiated Bills], a complete list of Maine's initiatives from 1911 to the present, produced by the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library.
 +
* [http://www.maine.gov/legis/lawlib/peoplesveto.htm List of all People's Vetoes] from 1909-present.
 +
* [http://www.iandrinstitute.org/Maine.htm History of Maine's Initiative Process] from the I&R Institute.
 +
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=nG7G2r852GwC&pg=PP24&lpg=PP24&dq=maine+ballot+measures&source=bl&ots=n71ThxHFnJ&sig=XiLW7Hc0HsncscU6L524a08sRKk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result Maine: The Dynamics of Political Change]
  
This article is based in part on research found in David Schmidt's book, ''Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution'' and was taken with permission from the [http://www.iandrinstitute.org/Maine.htm I&R Institute].
+
==Acknowledgments==
 +
This article is significantly based on an article published by the [[Initiative & Referendum Institute]], and is used with their permission.  Their article, in turn, relies on research in [[David Schmidt]]'s book, [[Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution]].<ref>[http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/513_reg.html ''Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution''] Temple University Press, 352 pp., ISBN-10: 0877229031, October 1991</ref>,<ref>[http://www.iandrinstitute.org/Maine.htm ''History of Maine's initiative'']</ref>
  
[[Category:Maine]]
+
==References==
 +
{{reflist}}
 +
{{histories}}
 +
{{Maine ballot initiatives}}
 
[[Category:State histories of I&R]]
 
[[Category:State histories of I&R]]
 +
[[Category:Maine ballot measures]]

Revision as of 16:01, 21 August 2012

William Simon U'Ren.png This history of direct democracy article needs to be updated.

In 1908, Maine became the first state east of the Mississippi to adopt a constitutional provision for statewide initiative and referendum, with the adoption in a statewide vote of Article VI, Part 3, Section 18. The constitutional amendment providing for initiative and referendum was the 29th amendment to the Maine Constitution.[1]

It could not have happened without the work of the state's foremost I&R advocate, Roland Patten of Skowhegan.

In the early 1900s, Patten, editor of the Skowhegan Somerset Reporter, was an advocate of municipal ownership of public utilities. "About 1894," he wrote, he "heard something of the idea [of I&R] as made use of in Switzerland" and realized that I&R could be used in the cause of municipal ownership.

A member of the Republican Party, he first pushed for adoption of an I&R resolution at the Republican convention in his county. Failing there, he became a leader of the state's Socialist Party and lobbied all four of the state's major parties - Republican, Democratic, Socialist, and Prohibitionist - to endorse I&R. In 1902 Maine Democrats adopted Patten's I&R resolution verbatim, and in 1903 Democratic State Representative Cyrus W. Davis of Waterville introduced the first statewide I&R bill.

Roland Patten, pictured with a helmet. Source: Maine Memory Network

Initiative and Referendum League of Maine

Meanwhile, Patten had founded the Initiative and Referendum League of Maine and had allied with the state Grange and the state Federation of Labor. In 1905 they nearly succeeded: their I&R bill got a tie vote in the state senate. The following year all four parties endorsed I&R, and Davis made it a central issue in his Democratic gubernatorial campaign.

Davis lost to Republican William T. Cobb, who was lukewarm on the issue, but the I&R League succeeded in electing more I&R supporters to the legislature. Despite opposition from banks, timberland owners, and railroads, the legislature passed an initiative bill without a single dissent.

Yes to statutes, no to amendments

However, it was not exactly what the I&R League wanted: it provided for initiative statutes, but not constitutional amendments. The Republicans, who controlled both houses of the legislature, forced the initiative advocates to accept this compromise because they feared that an initiative constitutional amendment might be used to repeal their state's Prohibition amendment.[1]

Governor Cobb signed the I&R amendment on March 20, 1907, but it still had to be ratified by popular vote before taking effect. In the 18 months prior to this vote, most of the state's newspapers published editorials opposing I&R, and Maine's U.S. Senator Hale sent his constituents copies of a vehement speech opposing it by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. Nevertheless, voters approved I&R by a margin of more than two to one on September 15, 1908. The day of the vote the polls opened at 6 a.m. and the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad delayed its 6 a.m. train one half-hour to give male passengers time to vote. Local mills opened at 7 a.m., an hour later than usual, so male workers could vote before work. Only a little more half of those who went to the polls bothered to vote either for or against the measure.[2]

The People's Veto

Ballot measures
in Maine
Seal of Maine.png
Constitutional amendments
Citizen initiatives
Statutes referred by Legislature
Veto referenda
LawsHistory
See List of People's Veto ballot measures in Maine

Maine citizens have taken advantage of their right of veto referendum twenty-nine times. The first time was in 1910 when they rejected "An Act to Make Uniform the Standard Relating to the Percentage of Alcohol in Intoxicating Liquors" with 31,093 in favor of the act, and 40,475 opposed.

Most recently, Mainers took advantage of the People's Veto in 2010 when, in the Maine Tax Code People's Veto, Question 1 (June 2010) vote, they rejected the Maine State Legislature's proposed tax code changes 193,960 to 124,928.

Total veto referenda on the ballot Legislative acts ratified Legislative acts rejected
29 12 17

First initiative in 1911

The first initiative on the state ballot, the Direct Primary Law, was a victory for the Progressives: a law mandating the nomination of state and county candidates by popular vote in primary elections, rather than in party conventions. It passed by a margin of more than three to one on September 11, 1911.

Low initiative activity

Only seven initiatives were on the ballot during the first 60 years of the initiative process, and there were none during the l950s and l960s. The only successful measure after 1911 was a 1936 statute, the Maine Highway Fund Act (1936), "to prevent diversions of the general highway fund" to uses others than highways.

In the l970s, Maine voters, like those in other states, rediscovered their power to make laws by initiative. In 1972 they approved an initiative, the Maine Form of Ballots Act (1972), to change the ballot form to eliminate party columns in order to encourage voters to give each candidate independent consideration.

Energy and environment take center stage

The Maine Yankee in Wiscasset, Maine. Closed in 1996

In the 1970s and 1980s, more than half of Maine's initiatives were about energy and environmental matters. In 1976, voters enacted a beverage container deposit (the Bottle Bill) initiative and established a state park at Bigelow Mountain; in 1980 and 1982, they turned down proposed initiatives to ban nuclear power, following massive "Vote No" ad campaigns paid for by the owners of the Maine Yankee nuclear plant. The Maine Nuclear Referendum Committee, sponsors of the nuclear ban initiative, won only one campaign: the Maine Radioactive Waste Referendum in 1985. This statute required that any proposal to dump low-level radioactive waste in the state of Maine must be put to a statewide vote.

In 1986, consumer advocates waged a successful battle against the local telephone company to pass an initiative, the Telephone Service Act, outlawing local measured service, whereby callers are charged by the minute for local calls. The company had set a campaign spending record with its "Vote No" ads, which featured former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate Edmund Muskie.

State lawmakers react against term limits

However, with the passage of term limits in the early 90s, state lawmakers began a crusade against the initiative process by passing numerous changes to the state's I&R laws. One such new law prohibiting petition circulators to be paid by signature. This law was struck down by the Federal Courts as a violation of the First Amendment. The lawsuit was sponsored by the Initiative & Referendum Institute.

Changes in law over time

At first, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiative for the ballot was 8%, and the number required to qualify a referendum for or referendum for the ballot was 5%.[3]

External links

Acknowledgments

This article is significantly based on an article published by the Initiative & Referendum Institute, and is used with their permission. Their article, in turn, relies on research in David Schmidt's book, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution.[4],[5]

References