Referendum Drive Could Overturn New Maine Driver’s License Standard

By | May 1, 2008

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said his office had received a people’s veto application that could launch a referendum drive to overturn newly enacted legislation to tighten standards for getting a Maine driver’s license.

State officials said the people’s veto application was submitted by Kathleen McGee of Bowdoinham. To force a statewide people’s veto vote, petitioners would have submit more than 55,000 signatures.

“Civil rights, civil rights, civil rights,” McGee said Tuesday evening in a telephone interview. “And states’ rights as well.”

Signing the measure earlier this month, Gov. John Baldacci said the bill’s enactment joined Maine with 44 other states, including the rest of New England, in making proof of legal U.S. residency a requirement for getting a driver’s license.

The federal Department of Homeland Security has been pressing to bring states into compliance with the Real ID Act of 2005. Civil libertarians have been critical of data base centralization.

In addition to requiring legal presence, the legislation directs Maine’s secretary of state to study the use of new technologies to reduce the risk of an applicant being issued more than one driver’s license, and to develop a plan to use a federal database to verify immigration documents of applicants.

It also requires that state credentials issued to non-citizens who live in the United States legally expire at the same time as the applicant’s authorized duration of stay.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, an application for a people’s veto referendum petition must be filed within 10 business days after adjournment of the legislative session at which the act in question was passed.

The filing deadline for a people’s veto referendum petition is on the 90th day after adjournment.

Signatures totaling 10 percent (55,087) of the votes cast for governor in 2006 are required.

Maine lawmakers wrapped up this year’s legislative sessions on April 18.

“We know that there is huge opposition to this,” McGee said, professing optimism that organizers will be able to gather enough signatures by July 17 to force a statewide referendum vote.

“I am talking to people from all over the state from the left of the Left to the right of the Right. … This is not a partisan issue,” McGee said.

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