Orono is contemplating altering its municipal election from March to November to enhance voter entry for College of Maine college students.
Orono’s municipal election on March 14 was held through the College of Maine at Orono’s spring break, when many college students left campus. These all in favour of collaborating needed to forged absentee ballots or keep on the town to vote.
The college has almost 12,000 undergraduate and graduate college students. Not all of them are registered voters, however they may sway outcomes if sufficient of them vote in a municipal election.
This isn’t the primary time that Orono’s City Council has broached the concept of shifting the municipal election to both June or November to coincide with state and federal elections. Councilors are early of their talks about what such a change to the city constitution would contain, however most appeared in favor of the transfer throughout a gathering earlier this week.
Councilors pointed to the significance of voter illustration in a neighborhood election and a possible improve in voter turnout general, amongst different advantages. In addition they raised questions on elevated partisanship, the impact on councilors’ phrases and whether or not the election date change may imply native races get misplaced amongst bigger ones.
“There may be nothing extra basic to democracy than the fitting to decide on the place you take part,” Councilor Daniel Demeritt mentioned on the assembly. “You get one vote, however you get to decide on how you employ it.”
The final municipal election, throughout which Demeritt and Councilor Sarah Marx had been elected, drew 785 ballots, together with 288 absentee ballots. That isn’t almost sufficient, he mentioned.
Orono voters forged 3,670 votes for the governor’s race in Maine’s normal election final November, in line with unofficial outcomes.
UMaine college students are nearer to company than residents in Orono, mentioned Council Vice-Chair Leo Kenney, who doubted that many college students register for a brand new license with their dormitory tackle once they transfer to campus.
Councilor Rob Laraway, who as a scholar registered to vote in Orono, argued the transfer is extra widespread than Kenney characterised.
“As a result of they’re legally allowed to vote, to decide on the premise that we need to discriminate towards sure eligible voters would in all probability be a poor line of reasoning,” he mentioned. “I’m very a lot in favor of people that stay right here having illustration within the authorities that impacts their day-to-day lives.”
Prior to now, one of many causes Orono’s council determined to not change the election date is as a result of it may get misplaced amid federal, state and county races. There’s a normal concern that individuals gained’t take note of who’s working, City Supervisor Sophie Wilson mentioned.
It’s additionally attainable that individuals who by no means present up for his or her municipal election is perhaps extra more likely to vote as a result of they take part in bigger elections, Councilor Sarah Marx mentioned. She instructed that throughout the board, this transformation may improve voter turnout.
Council Chair Geoff Wingard hesitated to endorse a change proper off the bat, although he made clear he had not dismissed the concept.
As a longtime Bangor Excessive College historical past instructor, he values the concept that communities develop an id, which turns into a part of the tradition, he mentioned. The routines and rituals he discovered when he moved to Orono as a scholar grew to become vital to him, he mentioned.
“I’m cautious about throwing these identities away, significantly in an period the place we appear to be homogenizing the panorama so that each city looks as if each different city,” he mentioned. “What makes Orono particular is coming to the city as a scholar who grows right into a member of the group.”
Councilors will proceed the dialogue when Wilson brings them details about the logistics concerned. They talked a couple of attainable public listening to in November and council vote in December, however this may solely work if the change to the city constitution is minor, mentioned Wilson, who’s ready on affirmation from the city’s legal professional.