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June 10, 2013

Coalition Urges Maine Legislature to Reject Unprecedented Attack on Democracy

Voter suppression measure would strip Mainers of their longstanding constitutional right to vote on wildlife issues

A coalition of groups, including The Humane Society of the United States, Wildlife Alliance of Maine and Citizens in Charge, is urging the Maine legislature to reject a constitutional amendment that deliberately subverts voter participation in the democratic process. LD 1303 would prohibit citizen initiatives that limit hunting and fishing, leaving policy decisions in the hands of special interests who dominate legislative committees and eliminating the right of citizens to vote on inhumane hunting practices such as bear baiting, captive hunts or other activities.

Katie Hansberry, Maine state director for The HSUS said: “As Maine residents, we’ve had the constitutional right to vote on ballot measures for more than 100 years. This shocking power grab by certain politicians sets a dangerous precedent. Today it’s voting rights on hunting and fishing issues. But which voting rights will they take away next?”

The heavy-handed maneuver is specifically designed to silence citizens by preventing any future ballot measures that protect wildlife. If passed, LD 1303 would mark the first-ever subject matter restriction on Mainers’ voting rights.

Daryl DeJoy, executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine said: “LD 1303 is an irresponsible attempt by a small group of outdoor extremists to monopolize the fate of wildlife in our state. Even worse, they would take away the right of Maine citizens to vote and have a say in wildlife issues except when favoring hunters and fishermen. This bill is very one-sided and a poorly concealed sleight of hand designed to take away even more of our rights as Americans and Maine citizens. The politicians who would vote for this bill do not have our best interests at heart, but instead cater to this minority who would even trample on our own constitutional rights to get their way.”

Paul Jacobs, president for Citizens in Charge said: “Do legislators not trust the people of Maine?  The idea that those charged with representing the people would try to strip Mainers of their right to vote on wildlife issues, or any issue, is absolutely frightening. This amendment is an attack on our most basic rights.”

LD 1303 also clutters the constitution with a vague mandate that Maine will forever preserve hunting, fishing and the taking of wildlife for the “public good.” Including this requirement in the state’s constitution would put burdensome restrictions on policymakers for any future laws that impact wildlife management and might prevent them from taking necessary actions to protect the state’s economy, natural resources and public. The one-size-fits-all restriction fails to take into account wildlife management challenges in areas where hunting may not be feasible, such as densely populated areas, or species for which hunting and fishing isn’t an option, like endangered species.   

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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