Boxes of petition signatures for a Maine marijuana legalization initiative are delivered to state officials on Feb. 1, 2016 as protesters wave signs in Augusta, Maine. (Tom Bell, The Associated Press)

Maine marijuana supporters sue secretary of state for signature flap

Organizers of Maine marijuana ballot initiative say thousands of signatures were improperly invalidated; secretary had nixed 17,000 names

AUGUSTA, Maine — Organizers behind the rejected marijuana ballot initiative are appealing the Maine secretary of state’s decision to disqualify the measure from the November ballot.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Kennebec County Superior Court, supporters of the ballot initiative say Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap improperly invalidated thousands of signatures of registered Maine voters and denied citizens their constitutional right to vote on the measure.

The Maine Secretary of State’s office found 51,543 valid signatures — about 9,500 below the threshold. The office rejected about 17,000 signatures on petitions that were notarized by one person. Officials said the notary’s signature didn’t match the signature they have on file.

The lawsuit says the disputed signatures do match and that Dunlap acted outside his authority.

The initiative would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana in Maine.