AUGUSTA, Maine — The backers of a citizen petition to create a casino in southern Maine have appealed Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s ruling that they didn’t gather enough valid signatures to qualify for this November’s statewide ballot.

Kristen Schulze Muszynski, spokeswoman for Dunlap’s office, said the casino backers filed their appeal Friday in Superior Court.

On March 2, Dunlap said it was able to validate only 36,000 — or just 39 percent — of the more than 91,000 signatures petitioners submitted. The threshold to make the ballot is 61,123 valid signatures of registered Maine voters.

Horseracing Jobs Fairness, the ballot question committee that formed to support the casino, spent about $156,000 through the end of December 2015 to collect the signatures.

Two petition drives Dunlap disqualified this year for lack of valid signatures are being challenged in Superior Court. Supporters of a bid to legalize recreational marijuana also are appealing.

The court has 40 days from March 2, the date Dunlap issued his ruling that the petitioners did not submit enough valid signatures. Muszynski said she expects court decisions by mid-April.

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Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.