On December 21, a lower state court in Maine ruled that if election officials take longer than the time allowed to check petition signatures, then the petition must be deemed valid. The decision is from Kennebec Superior Court, and is called Webster v Dunlap, AP 09-55.
And, on December 23, the same court ruled in a related lawsuit that petitions are valid, even if the notary who notarized the petition sheets put down incorrect information about the notary’s own qualifications. That case is called Johnson v Dunlap, AP 09-56.
The result is that a referendum on taxes will be on the June 2010 ballot, unless an appeal reverses the decisions. See this story. Because the petition sponsors won both cases, and they only needed to win one of them, any appeal to remove the referendum would requiring reversing both decisions. However, there probably will be appeals, to the Maine Supreme Court.
The first decision appears to substantially weaken a very bad Maine precedent set in 2008, Dobson v Dunlap, which said that even though an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate submitted her petitions on time to the county clerks, she should not be on the ballot because the town clerks didn’t check her signatures in time. That case is reported at 576 F.Supp.2d 181. That decision opens, “There is no constitutional right to procrastinate. Laurie Dobson, an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, waited until the last minute to deliver her nomination petitions to the municipal registrars and when they failed to promptly certify all of her petitions, she failed to meet the statutory deadline to file 4,000 certified voter signatures with the Secretary of State.” In other words, according to the 2008 courts, even though the candidate followed the law and met the deadline, she should have realized that the towns would have a difficult time checking her signatures and she should have turned the signatures in earlier than the deadline.