In Push to Veto Maine Vaccine Excemption Law, Some Say They Were Misled

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says the e-mails from confused signatories are a routine part of the people's veto process

An advocacy group is trying to stop a Maine law that would give vaccine exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons from going into effect, but some people are saying they'd been misled.

Mainers for Health and Parental Rights submitted a 93,000-signature petition calling for a people's veto on a law passed this spring, making it illegal for parents to exempt kids from routine vaccines required for public school.

The Maine Secretary of State's office accepts the signatures for people's vetoes and verifies their accuracy.

MHPR submitted the signatures on Sept. 18.

Less than a week later, the office had received several complaints from people saying they signed the petition because they were "misled" by its intent.

"It is with no small sense of embarrassment that I am writing to you to inform you that my husband and I were misled into signing the petition," one of the letters said.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says the e-mails from confused signatories are a routine part of the people's veto process.

"This is a complaint we get on every petition," said Dunlap. "It is up to you, the voter to take the time to read the form.

Dunlap's office says it cannot take off any names from people who disagree with the petition but signed it.

It will, however, investigate any abnormalities for each of the signatures and make sure each person approached had a chance to review legislative language they signed up to support.

Cara Sacks, a co-chair of Mainers for Health and Parental Rights, says her group sent roughly 800 volunteers across Maine to gather signatures who were clear about what the petition was for.

"It was to put government mandated vaccines on the ballot, regardless of how you feel on the issue," she said. "We feel we should be able to decide as a state."

Sacks, who describes her group as "mostly families and parents in the state," says she's "sorry" if anyone signed the petition without realizing what it was for but believes that no one was misled at any point.

She also pointed to the high number of collected signatures and is "very confident" the secretary of state's office will verify enough of the to put a people's veto on the ballot coinciding with March 2020 primary elections.

The Secretary of State's office will announce whether or not that will happen around Oct. 18.

Until the completion of the verification process and the subsequent vote, if there is one, the vaccine exemption law remains stayed, unable to go into effect.

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