Terry Hayes Credit: Troy R. Bennett | File

An independent candidate for governor has sued the Maine secretary of state’s office for the right to bolster her campaign at the polls during the June 12 primary election.

Terry Hayes, who is the state treasurer and an independent candidate for governor, is not on a ballot for the June 12 primary, when Republicans and Democrats will nominate their candidates for the November general election. Regardless, her campaign says the secretary of state’s office has told her that she is subject to a law that candidates cannot campaign within 250 feet of a polling location on Election Day.

A suit filed Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court argues that because Hayes is not a candidate in the primary, she should not be subject to the same buffer zone laws as candidates who are on the ballot because it would violate her state and federal constitutional rights of expression, association and petitioning.

Maine law says that a candidate may not attempt to influence anyone’s vote within 250 feet of a polling place.

Hayes, who has qualified for the general election ballot, is also running with support from the Maine Clean Election Fund. Candidates who use that publicly funded campaign finance system can earn more funding by collecting certain levels of $5 qualifying contributions, which is what Hayes and her supporters want to do at the polls during the primary election.

According to the suit, the Hayes campaign has already collected ballot access signatures and qualifying contributions at prior elections, such as the November 2017 general election.

In an affidavit filed Tuesday with the lawsuit, Hayes’ deputy campaign manager, Kaitlin LaCasse, said she was told twice by the secretary of state’s office that the campaign could not collect signatures or distribute literature near a polling location on Election Day.

“The answer was ‘no,’ the Hayes campaign could not be at the polls on June 12, 2018, to engage in campaign activity or collect $5 qualifying contributions,” stated LaCasse, who said she received the same verbal response a second time, so asked for the decision in writing.

“To date, the secretary of state has refused this request as well,” LaCasse said.

A May 16 memo from Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to the Hayes campaign — provided by the campaign — addresses collecting donations but not campaign activity, which the Hayes campaign argues go hand in hand. Dunlap said local election wardens could allow the collection of qualifying contributions “subject to space availability” and not until voters have completed voting.

The suit calls for a declaration that Hayes supporters can go to polling locations to “display and distribute campaign literature and advertising material, education voters about Terry Hayes and her candidacy and collect $5 qualifying contributions.”

Newell Augur, an attorney for the Hayes campaign, said both sides will be filing arguments with the court but could not otherwise predict the timing of the case’s resolution.

A spokeswoman for Dunlap declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.

For a roundup of Maine political news, click here for the Daily Brief. Click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.

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.