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Blaine House candidate sues over denied petitions

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN
Alex Hammer (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT) CAPTION Alex Hammer, candidate for governor of Maine. Image made on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Independent gubernatorial hopeful Alex Hammer of Bangor is turning to the courts in hopes of gaining access to the November ballot after clashing with the Secretary of State’s Office over the validity of petition signatures.

Hammer claims he gathered more than 5,900 signatures in an effort to have his name appear on the November ballot as an unenrolled candidate for governor. But Hammer fell roughly 800 signatures short of the 4,000 needed to qualify because he tried to submit electronic copies of the petitions to local clerks for certification.

On Monday, Hammer filed an appeal in Penobscot County Superior Court, claiming the office of Secretary of State Matt Dunlap took actions that effectively prevented him from qualifying for the ballot. Additionally, Hammer accuses Dunlap’s office of acting “recklessly and harmfully” toward him .

“We have the signatures, and we followed the rules,” Hammer said Tuesday.

Dunlap declined to comment on the appeal because it is now a legal matter. But in past interviews, Dunlap has said that Hammer failed to follow the proper procedures for qualifying for the ballot.

Hammer’s dispute with Dunlap’s office goes back to at least January when Hammer requested additional original copies of blank petition forms. He was eventually given 150 copies — the same number available to all other candidates — and was told he could make photocopies of the original blank sheets.

But Hammer pressed for additional originals, arguing in an e-mail that he could not afford to make photocopies.

Ultimately, Hammer was denied access to the November ballot after he attempted to submit electronic or scanned copies of petition sheets to municipal clerks, who must verify voter signatures before they are filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Hammer argues that nothing in the law prohibits the submission of scanned copies to municipal clerks. Dunlap has countered that Maine election statutes do not specifically allow electronic copies, saying in past interviews that it would be “an extraordinary interpretation of the law” for him to say his office will now accept scanned copies.

“Right is right, independent of what my chances are,” Hammer said. “We have the signatures. I think it speaks to the integrity of the system.”

Hammer said Tuesday that he has consulted with attorneys but has not decided whether to represent himself in the appeal. Hammer also attempted and failed to run as an independent candidate for governor in 2006.

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