Next March, voters will decide the fate of a new state law that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccines in Maine.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced Thursday that a people’s veto drive to overturn the law had collected enough valid voter signatures over the summer to put the question on the presidential primary ballot on March 3, 2020.

Proponents of the veto submitted 29,370 petitions with 95,871 signatures to the Elections Division in mid-September. Staff in the division found that 79,056 of the signatures were valid, a release from Dunlap’s office said.

That’s well above the 63,067 valid signatures required – a figure that equals 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election last November.

The Legislature passed the vaccine law in June, with the bill clearing the state Senate by a single vote. Dunlap’s certification of the veto drive puts the law on hold until the March vote, although that will have little practical effect because the measure isn’t scheduled to take effect until September 2021.

If the law survives the March vote, Maine would join four other states – California, Mississippi, West Virginia and New York – that have eliminated all but medical exemptions for vaccines.

Proponents of overturning the law said they were pleased with the certification by Dunlap on Thursday and believed voters would back them in rejecting the new mandate from the Legislature.

“The days of Big Pharma dictating policy in Maine are numbered. It’s clear that Mainers won’t stand for government-mandated vaccines,” Cara Sacks, a spokeswoman for Mainers for Health and Parental Rights said in a prepared statement. “We are confident that Maine voters will vote yes to reject Big Pharma and restore medical freedom.”

But supporters of the new law said they would work to make sure voters reject the veto push.

“We are confident that Maine voters will reject this attempt to leave schools vulnerable to diseases like polio, measles, and whooping cough,” said Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician and founding member of Maine Families for Vaccines, also in a prepared statement.

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