In this Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, photo, a woman who did not want to be identified asks for a signature on a petition for the "People's Veto" referendum, in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine voters backed a constitutional change in Tuesday’s election to make it easier for people with disabilities to help referendum questions get on the ballot.

The yes side of Question 2 in the statewide election had 75.8 percent of votes to 24.2 percent for the no side, according to unofficial returns as of as of 9 p.m. on Tuesday night with 31 percent of precincts reporting results to the Bangor Daily News.

    no result handler for source: ”local”
* This race will be decided by ranked-choice voting. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of total votes, the Maine secretary of state will conduct a second ballot tally at a later date to determine the winner.

NAN% reported

There have been few times in Maine history when so many people voted on a question affecting so few. The amendment would allow people with disabilities preventing them from issuing a signature to use an alternative method to help referendums they favor get on the ballot.

Those kinds of alternative signatures are already allowed on the forms that register people to vote, enroll in political parties and help candidates get on the ballot under the Maine Clean Election Act, making this largely a technical change to Maine law.

An official with Disability Rights Maine, an advocacy group, said it hadn’t heard of people affected by current law. The state’s last constitutional amendment came in 2017 and 173 of them have passed since 1834 with another 29 defeated at referendum.

Two of those defeated amendments came in 1997 and 2000 and sought to strike a provision barring people “under guardianship for reasons of mental illness” from voting. However, that provision has been ignored since a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional in 2001.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...