August 22, 2019

David Trahan Testimony on LD1228

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Had a great public hearing on LD 1228. Here is my Testimony-had no one in opposition.

Testimony in Support of LD 1228 An Act To Amend the Ballot Initiative Process To Ensure Support in Maine’s Congressional Districts
Before the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs
Presented by David Trahan, Executive Director, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine
April 15, 2015

Senator Cyrway, Representative Luchini, and distinguished members of the Committee on Veterans and Legal
Affairs, I am David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine testifying in support of LD LD 1228 An Act To Amend the Ballot Initiative Process To Ensure Support in Maine’s Congressional Districts. Our organization would like to thank Representative Short for sponsoring this SAM Bill.

For decades, many Mainers have argued that there are two Maine’s, North and South. Many in the North feel as though they have no voice in Augusta politics. In March of 2012, State Representative, Henry Joy of Crystal even proposed Legislation that would have allowed Aroostook, Piscataquis, Somerset, Franklin, Penobscot and parts of Washington, Hancock and Oxford counties to become their own State called Maine. Southern and coastal Maine would be renamed the state of Northern Massachusetts.

I served in the legislature at the time many of us could not figure out whether it was a joke or whether he serious, I think he was dead serious. Never could the North v. South divide have been more defined than during the bear referendum signature gathering effort and in the final vote on Election Day.

We have submitted LD 1228 to restore some level of fairness to rural Maine and when I am finished with this testimony it should be crystal clear why this bill is necessary.

In early February, Katie Hansberry, HSUS Director announced that Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting had submitted 78,528 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office and that the signatures collected came from 417 cities and towns, in every County throughout Maine. This sounds like statewide support, except the devils in the details. First of all, of the 78,528 signatures turned in, only 63,626 were valid, just 5000 more than required.

Of the 63,626 certified signatures, three quarters, or 46,463 of those came from 115 First Congressional District towns. To pare it down further, 12 towns, mostly in Cumberland County, were responsible for 46 percent of the signatures. Twenty-two towns, again, mostly in Cumberland County, were responsible for 58 percent of the total valid signatures collected.

For those living in the other rural counties, what is extremely unfair about this lopsided collection effort is that if the referendum had passed, nearly no one in southern Maine would have been affected by the loss of rural Maine bear guiding jobs or from new bear nuisance problems.

There are 24 states that have a citizen initiated referendum system, of the 24, 12 have geographical requirement to qualify for the ballot. LD 1228 is identical to Nevada law that requires qualifying signatures come from each Congressional District. In order to qualify for the ballot in Maine, it takes at least 10 percent valid signatures of those that voted in the previous election for Governor. In Nevada, the Congressional geographical requirement in LD 1228 was tested in the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Angle v. Miller, September 1, 2011. In upholding the law, the Federal Court said:
[2] All Districts Rule did not dilute political power in violation of the Equal Protection Clause;
[3] All Districts Rule did not discriminate against an identifiable class in violation of the Equal Protection Clause;
[4] All Districts Rule did not impose severe burden on communication between petition circulators and voters, as would trigger strict scrutiny under First Amendment;
[5] there was no evidence that All Districts Rule significantly inhibited ability of proponents to place initiatives on ballot, as would trigger strict scrutiny under First Amendment; and
[6] In a matter of first impression, Nevada had legitimate interest in making sure any initiative had grassroots support that was distributed throughout the state.

The First District is 20 percent the size of the Second District, yet it holds half the state’s population. Maine’s Second District is the largest East of the Mississippi, it is the second most rural in the country, with 72 percent of its population in rural areas; in contrast, 50 percent of the First District is considered urban and the rest rural. The Second District is like its own country and because of its size the politics and opinions of its inhabitants are diverse. When considering policies like wildlife management, it is easy to understand why the people of rural Maine feel disenfranchised, they are.

As our population migrates further south toward Massachusetts, the distance between urban and rural Maine is growing. According to MapQuest, it takes six hours to travel from Kittery Maine to Fort Kent Maine. It takes just 4 hours and a half to travel from Kittery Maine to New York City, NY. Rep. Joy was right to some degree, southern Maine is an extension of Massachusetts, but that doesn’t mean in order for the rest of Maine to have fair representation in the initiative process they need to secede. Instead, the legislature needs to find ways to bring fairness to processes like our referendum. I urge you pass LD 1228 it will finally bring geographical fairness to state ballot initiatives. This bill will not impede debate or suppress voters; on the contrary, it will insure that ballot initiative signatures represent a diverse and more accurate geographical sample of Maine voters.

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