Bear referendum draft released, open for public comment

AUGUSTA — A draft of the bear hunting citizen initiative question that will be presented to Maine voters on the Nov. 4 ballot was released on May 16 by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. Under the law, the public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed wording of the ballot question.

The proposed wording for the initiative question is as follows:

“Do you want to ban bear hunting using bait, traps or dogs except to protect property, public safety or for research?”

Here is a link to the text of the initiated legislation:

Written public comments on the proposed question may be filed with the Secretary of State by email at; by mail at Secretary of State, Attn: Public Comment, 148 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0148; or by hand at the Secretary of State’s office at Nash School, 103 Sewall Street, Augusta, Maine. Public comments must be received by the Secretary of State prior to the close of business on June 16, 2014.

The question was drafted by the Secretary of State with assistance from senior staff, the Attorney General’s office, and volunteer experts serving as Ballot Clarity Advisors.

“The Maine Constitution directs my office to ‘to present the question or questions concisely and intelligibly’ and Maine’s statutes provide further instruction,” Dunlap said.

“When drafting the proposed ballot question, we endeavor to provide voters with a simple, clear, unbiased and easy to understand question.  I am looking forward to the comments on what we have rendered so far,” he added.

Secretary Dunlap noted that Maine law, Title 21-A MRSA Section 905-A, requires that the Secretary of State “provide a 30-day public comment period for the purpose of receiving comments on the content and form of proposed questions to be placed on the ballot for any pending initiatives.”

The Maine Constitution, Article IV, Part Third, Section 18 provides for legislation by citizen initiative. In order for a proposal to move forward, proponents must file with the Secretary of State a number of signatures of registered Maine voters, equivalent to 10% of the votes cast at the last gubernatorial election. That number this year is 57,277 signatures.  Once the signatures are certified, the legislation is transmitted to the Legislature.

On March 18, 2014, the Secretary of State, having certified that proponents of an Act to Prohibit the Use of Dogs, Bait or Traps When Hunting Bears Except Under Certain Circumstances had gathered a sufficient number of signatures, transmitted the initiated legislation to the Legislature. Members of the House and Senate had the option of enacting the measure into law, without amendment, or sending the question to the voters for a final determination.  Because the initiated bill was not enacted, the question will be placed on the November 4th ballot.

For further information, please visit the Secretary of State’s website at

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at