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Maine News

Hoffman De-certified by High Court

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The state's highest court ruled today and sided with claims lodged by the Maine Democratic Party and ruled that the name of independent U.S. Senate candidate Herbert Hoffman will not appear on the November ballot.  Party leaders say Hoffman did not follow Maine law when circulating his nominating petitions earlier this year.  They asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to clarify the role of petition circulators and the oaths they take when gathering signatures to qualify a candidate for the ballot.  Hoffmann argued that the party was simply afraid he'd siphon votes away from the Democratic nominee, Congressman Tom Allen.

The leaders of the Maine Democratic Party had their day in court -- and they won.  Rebecca Pollard, spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party, comments, "We feel good.  I mean, we feel like today's ruling was a victory for the rule of law.  We just feel like a lot of hard work went into this."  Pollard says the decision by the Maine Supreme Court to take independent U.S. Senate candidate Herbert Hoffman off the fall ballot was appropriate because it supports the integrity of signature-gathering process: "We have believed all along that when someone swears an oath or a promise it must be truthful.  That's really, you know, that kind of circulator's oath acts as a guardian of the whole petition process.  If that is somehow undermined then it really draws into question the entire process and the legitimacy of those petitions.  We feel like the sanctity of Maine's ballot access process was really at stake today, but what the Supreme Court did was a great service to Maine voters."

Earlier this year, the party challenged three nominating petitions circulated by Hoffman on the grounds that three individuals claimed Hoffman was not in their presence when they signed the documents. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap agreed that the names of those individuals who said they did not see Hoffman when they signed the petitions should be removed.  He did not agree with party officials who maintained that if Hoffman's oath that he was in the presence of the signers was false with respect to three names on three petitions, then all three petitions should be invalidated. She says the court understood the importance of the oath: "That an oath of the person circulating that - if they swear that they saw those people sign a petition - we have to rely on that.  That oath must be truthful.  If it's not, then you set a dangerous precedent going forward for all of Maine's petition gathering process."

Hoffman countered that he believed his oath was true when he signed the petitions and that he never exhibited any intentional effort to be dishonest.  He added there was no evidence he had committed fraud.  He says that the party's actions amounted to a concentrated effort to keep him off the ballot.  Reacting to the court's decision, Hoffman says 4,000 voters were silenced: "This is not a simple decertification of three petitions.  It's a decertification of those 4,037 voters - certified voters - who signed the petition because they wanted to see ballot access.  They were supporting ballot access and a full debate on the issues."  The retired Ogunquit psychologist says he is weighing his options: "I believe I have a number of legal options.  I'm not at liberty, right now, to identify them.  I haven't read the decision in its entirety - only the last paragraph.  I'm going to be meeting with my court team right now to begin the discussion of the options available to us.  There are options."

The Tom Allen for Senate campaign said in a statement that Allen and Hoffman share many similar views and renewed their invitation to Hoffman to join their campaign.

 

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State House Bureau Chief, A.J. Higgins
Reported by:
A.J. Higgins,
State House Bureau Chief
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