September election; or, as provided by an amendment adopted in 1875, the legislature may by a two-thirds vote of each house summon a constitutional convention. From 1819 to 1875 twelve amendments were adopted; in 1875, after nine more were added, the twenty-one were incorporated in the text; and in 1875 and 1899 nine more were adopted. Suffrage is conferred by the constitution on all male citizens of the United States who are at least twenty-one years of age and have, for some other reason than because of being in the military, naval or marine service of the United States, or of being students at college, lived in the state for three months next preceding any election; the following classes, however, are excepted: paupers, persons under guardianship, Indians not taxed, and, as provided by amendment adopted in 1892, persons intellectually incapable of reading the state constitution in the English language or of writing their names. State elections were annual until 1897 when they were made biennial; they are held on the second Monday in September in even numbered years, Maine being one of the few states in the Union in which they are not held in November.
The governor is the only executive officer of the state elected by popular vote. There is no lieutenant-governor, the president of the Senate succeeding to the office of governor in case of a vacancy, but there is a council of seven members elected by the legislature (not more than one from any one senatorial district), whose sole function is to advise the governor. The governor's term of office is two years (before 1879 it was one year); and the constitution further directs that he shall be at least thirty years of age at the beginning of his term, that he shall be a native-born citizen of the United States, that when elected he shall have been a resident of the state for five years, and that he shall reside in the state while in office. His power of appointment is unusually extensive and the advice and consent of the council (instead of that of the Senate as in other states) are required for his appointments. He appoints all judges, coroners and notaries public, besides all other civil and military officers for whose appointment neither the constitution nor the laws provide otherwise. The governor is commander-in-chief of the state militia. Any bill of which he disapproves he can within five days after its passage prevent from becoming a law unless it is passed over his veto by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature. He and the council examine and pass upon election returns; he may summon extra sessions of the legislature, and he may grant pardons, reprieves, and commutations in all cases except impeachment, but the manner of hearing applications for pardon is in a measure prescribed by statute, and he must present to the legislature an account of each case in which he grants a pardon. His salary is $2,000 a year. The seven members of the council, the secretary of state, the treasurer, the attorney general and the commissioner of agriculture are elected biennially by a joint ballot of the two houses of the legislature, which also elects, one every two years, the three state assessors, whose term is six years.
The legislature meets biennially at Augusta, the capital, and is composed of a Senate of thirty-one members and a House of Representatives of one hundred and fifty-one members. Members of each house are elected for a term of two years: one senator from each senatorial district and one to seven representatives (one for a population of 1,500, and seven for a population of 26,250) from each township, or, where the township or plantation has less than 1,500 inhabitants, from each representative district, according to its population. There is a new reapportionment every ten years, counting from 1821. Every senator and every representative must at the beginning of his term have been for five years a citizen of the United States, for one year a resident of the state, and for three months next preceding his election, as well as during his term of office, a resident of the township or district which he represents; and every senator must be at least twenty-five years of age. All revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives, but to such bills the Senate may propose amendments provided they relate solely to raising revenue. Other bills may originate in either house. In September 1908 a constitutional amendment was adopted providing for referendum and initiative by the people. Any bill proposed in the legislature or passed by it must be referred to popular vote before becoming law, if there is a referendum petition therefor signed by 10,000 voters; and a petition signed by 12,000 voters initiates new legislation.
At the head of the department of justice is the supreme judicial court, which consists of a chief justice and seven associate justices appointed by the governor and council for a term of seven years. When it sits as a law court, at least five of its justices must be present, and it holds three such sessions annually: one at Augusta, one at Bangor, and one at Portland. But only one of its justices is required for a trial court, and trial courts are held two or three times a year in each county for the trial of both civil and criminal cases which come before it in the first instance or upon appeal. In Cumberland and Kennebec counties there is a superior court presided over by one justice and having extensive civil and criminal jurisdiction; and in each of the counties there are a probate court For the settlement of the estates of deceased persons and courts of the trial justice and the justice of the peace for the trial of petty offences and of civil cases in which the debt or damage involved does not exceed $20.
The principal forms of local government are the town (or township), the plantation, the county and the city. As in other parts of New England, the town is the most important of these. At the regular town meeting held in March the electorate of the town assembles, decides what shall be done for the town during the ensuing year, elects officers to execute its decisions with limited discretion, and votes money to meet the expenses. The principal officers are the selectmen (usually three), town clerk, assessors, collector, treasurer, school committee and road commissioner. A populous section of a town, in order to promote certain financial ends, is commonly incorporated as a village without however becoming a governing organization distinct from the town. Maine is the only state in the Union that retains what is known as the organized plantation. This is a governmental unit organized from an unincorporated township having at least 200 inhabitants, and its principal officers are the moderator, clerk, three assessors, treasurer, collector, constable and school committee. The county is a sort of intermediate organization between the state and the towns to assist chiefly in the administration of justice, especially in the custody of offenders, and in the making and care of roads. Its officers are three commissioners, a treasurer, a register of deeds, a judge and a register of probate, and a sheriff. They are all elected: the commissioners for a term of six years, one retiring every two years, the register of deeds and the judge and the register of probate for a term of four years, and the others for two years. Among other duties the commissioners care for county property, manage county business and take charge of county roads. Maine has no general law under which cities are chartered, and does not even set a minimum population. A town may, therefore, be incorporated as a city whenever it can obtain from the legislature a city charter which a majority of its electorate prefers to a continuance under its town government; consequently there is much variety in the government of the various cities of the state.
By the laws of Maine the property rights of a wife are approximately equal to those of a husband. A woman does not lose nor a man acquire right to property by marriage, and a wife may manage, sell, or will her property without the assent of her husband. She may even receive as her own the wages of her personal labour which was not performed for her own family. In the absence of a will, bar or release, there is no legal distinction between the rights of a widower in the estate of his deceased wife and those of a widow in the estate of her deceased husband. The grounds for divorce in the state are adultery, impotence, extreme cruelty, desertion for three consecutive years next preceding the application, gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, cruel and abusive treatment, or a husband's gross or wanton refusal or neglect to provide a suitable maintenance for his wife.
Under the laws of Maine a householder owning and occupying a house and lot may hold the same, or such part of it as does not exceed $500 in value, as a homestead exempt from attachment, except for the satisfaction of liens for labour or material, by filing in the registry of deeds a certificate stating his desire for such an exemption, provided he is not the owner of an exempted lot purchased from the state; and the exemption may be continued during the widowhood of his widow or the minority of his children. A considerable amount of personal property, including apparel, household furniture not exceeding $100 in value, a library not exceeding $150 in value, interest in a pew in a meeting-house, and a specified amount of fuel, provisions, tools or farming implements, and domestic animals, and one fishing boat, is also exempt from attachment.
Maine was the first state in the Union to enact a law for prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors. An act for restricting the sale of such liquors was passed in 1846; the first prohibitory act was passed, largely through the influence of Neal Dow, in 1851; this was frequently amended; and in 1884 an amendment
- An unincorporated township containing less than 200 inhabitants may, on the application of three resident voters, be organized as a plantation, but does not pay state or county taxes unless by special legislative order. Other unincorporated districts, especially islands along the coast, are called “grants,” “surpluses,” “gores” or “tracts.”