Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Vote ‘yes’ on Question 2

On Nov. 5, please VOTE YES on referendum Question 2, to allow persons with disabilities to sign petitions in an alternative manner.

When collecting signatures for citizen’s initiative petitions during the fall of 2017, I was angry to learn that disabled individuals are not currently permitted to designate an alternate to sign on their behalf when disability prevents them signing themselves. Disabled people can vote, sign candidate petitions, and complete clean elections donations in an alternate manner—legally documenting their support of candidates in ways that ensure their rights are honored regardless of disability. However, our Maine Constitution doesn't specify citizen's initiative petitions as being eligible for the same accommodations. Petition signatures must match the original on each person’s voter registration card or be disqualified.

Folks who are unable to physically sign have no voice in what referendums make it to the ballot—disenfranchising them by denying them the ability to fully exercise their electoral rights. This exclusion affects more people than many realize, and just one person is one too many. A gentleman with Parkinson's who signed my petitions feared his signature would be disqualified, and his wife choked back tears because she could not legally help. People with Multiple Sclerosis, like my husband, whose signature may vary when vision or muscle control is affected by an exacerbation, also face disqualification. I dreaded explaining this to other disabled community members, because I knew many would feel offended and disrespected.

In January of 2018, I made a complaint to Julie Flynn of the Secretary of State’s Elections Commission and prepared testimony on proposed rules for petition signature collection. She addressed the issue during her testimony before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and urged them – during a work session - to amend the constitution. Regrettably, her concern that legislators would not take it up that session proved true.

Fortunately, Rep. Bruce White (D- Waterville) sponsored LD 1437 during his first session. I am grateful for his willingness to correct this obvious violation of electoral rights. I also appreciate Julie Flynn and Melissa Packard (of the SOS Elections Office) testifying in favor of the change, as well as testimony Ron Bilancia (a petitioner from Brewer) submitted. Their efforts got the measure through committee, and the current legislature agreed that Maine voters should have a chance to right this wrong.

I encourage folks to pass this referendum without hesitation—you have a chance to make sure disabled people have a voice in our referendum process—VOTE YES on Question 2!

Gwen Doak

As appears on the ballot:
Question 2: Constitutional Amendment
Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to allow persons with disabilities to sign petitions in an alternative manner as authorized by the Legislature?

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7 Responses »

  1. No, I cannot support this. There are several things that people with a disability can't do, some mental disabilities prevent people from writing, signing or giving their proxy on a will, And it is the law that ALL petition signatures must be verified and technically they didn't sign it, and if they can't sign their name the same way on all things that require it, then how can their signature be verified? How do they write checks, how did they sign their driver's license or state ID, the signature card at the bank, the voter registration card in order to be able to sign a petition in the first place? This is a bad idea from start to finish.

  2. Yes on 2!


  3. Well, Hrtlss, I guess you just proved true to your name.

  4. Maine has adopted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) and does not mention or differentiate between a signature and a mark

    Folks have been signing and executing all sorts of documents by mark for quite a while
    Question Two appears to only affect "petitions"

  5. Bobby Wing, I'd hate to disappoint.

  6. @ Hrtlss Bstrd - I suspect there's a fair bit you're not read up on regarding accessibility. I recommend checking out Disability Visibility Project.

    I assume, based on your comments, that you have experienced most of your life as able-bodied, with an average range of vision and hearing.

    What if your hands were badly burned in an accident?
    What if you had a stroke that impacted your motor control?
    What if you were in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury?
    What if you lose your vision?
    What if you lose your hearing?

    What accommodations might you need?
    What businesses and services might be inaccessible to you?
    What rights are you willing to surrender?

    Life is fragile. Most people are temporarily abled, impacted by illnesses, accidents, injuries, and wear & tear. Much difficulty for disabled folks is not rooted in disability, but rather inaccessibility and stigma.

    Apologies to disabled people reading this. Access and rights do not hinge on the question of an abled person becoming disabled.

  7. First, "RCV". Now,

    * Vote harvesting * by proxy