A campaign to legalize gay marriage in Maine has gathered sufficient signatures to qualify for next year's ballot.

Equality Maine, the state's largest gay rights group, announced on Wednesday that it had collected the signatures of more than 35,000 registered voters on Election Day. The group had earlier announced plans to gather 75,000 signatures, about 18,000 more than needed to qualify. The buffer is a hedge against invalid signatures.

The campaign said it had surpassed its goal and now had almost 100,000 signatures.

“Yesterday, as volunteers gathered signatures for marriage, folks statewide reported enthusiasm and changed minds – a volunteer in a small town kept calling to ask if she could stay longer because she was so excited how many people were signing,” the group said in an email to supporters.

“A man in a northern, rural town told us he wouldn't have signed two years ago, and when we asked what changed his mind he said simply, 'My daughter.'”

In 2009, gay marriage foes narrowly (53%) repealed a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers with a “people's veto” at the ballot box, known as Question 1. Now, backers hope to make Maine the first state to legalize the institution through the same democratic process.

A survey released last week shows a narrow majority of Mainers (51%) now support marriage equality.