The Coastal Packet: State may have hard time proving pot signatures aren't valid

Sunday, April 3

State may have hard time proving pot signatures aren't valid

Press Herald - Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has rejected thousands of petitions signed by registered Maine voters who want to put the marijuana question on the Nov. 8 ballot. He says the petitions are invalid because the signatures of several notaries public who signed them do not match the signatures that are on file with the state.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which organized the petition drive, has sued Dunlap over the decision, arguing that he did not review all of the disputed signatures and is not qualified to determine if they match.

Most of the disputed petitions were notarized by Stavros Mendros, a former legislator from Lewiston whose company was hired by the marijuana campaign to gather voter signatures. Mendros, who has previously declined to comment on the dispute, said in an interview that he personally notarized all of the petitions that bear his signature.

The Maine Sunday Telegram obtained copies of the 6,279 disputed petitions under the Freedom of Access Act last week. The Telegram reviewed the signatures in question, comparing them with the signatures used as a reference by the state. The newspaper also forwarded a number of the signed petitions and the reference signatures to an independent handwriting expert who frequently testifies as an expert witness in court cases.

The expert observed variations in the signature of Mendros, who notarized more than 5,000 of the petitions, but said they were within the “natural range” of variation and could reflect the sheer number of signatures Mendros had to make.

If that opinion holds weight, it suggests that the state of Maine may have a difficult time convincing a judge that the notary signatures are so irregular or questionable that the petitions must be invalidated.

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