To the Editor:
Voter registration tables in the Lewiston Armory were noticeably misbalanced. A table designated for Lewiston voters was staffed by a solitary figure; the other busier table designated for Bates College students appeared to have three attendants.
Larger staffing was necessary: of the perhaps 1,700 Bates College students, those that registered and voted two years before had no need of the table. But the new half of the student body, the freshmen and sophomores, did.
Voting is a biennial Bates College event. Students, in a continuous flow of congenial small groups, make the pilgrimage across campus to the armory, their concerted purpose facilitated by a specifically designated registration table that supports a kind of fast-track, one-stop-voting process. Biennially, this process tugs and sometimes yanks at my curiosity.
It has the familiarity of an organized event. And, it has disturbing possibilities. I remember encountering, on the Washington D.C. subway, a protest group of students with placards traveling with their college professor. They were, it was revealed, promised academic credit for their protest participation.
There is imbalance and unfairness in a process that permits and encourages Bates students to vote locally. The premise, supposedly, is that the students, who, because they live, albeit temporarily, in a dormitory in my neighborhood, should vote in the same elections as I do.
I am, perhaps unfairly, concerned that these students because they are inexperienced and easily impressionable may, by voting, bring about long-term events that I can never hope they will later reverse when they are more mature because they will by then have long since returned to their places of origin.
I know everyone has a right to vote, and the Bates students should not be excluded. But, they are already entitled, as we all are, to vote by absentee ballot in their respective places of origin, in the same communities where their parents claim them on their income taxes. Perhaps some, because they want to please classmates, professors and their parents, vote in both places.
The Maine Constitution prohibits students of a seminary of learning from thereby establishing residence and voting. Similarly, it doesn’t recognize military personnel as Maine citizens merely because they are garrisoned in Maine. Strangely, although there is clearly a constitutional law, the law appears to be deliberately ignored.
Some might be confused thinking that the word “seminary” means a training school for priests and rabbis. Well, it does mean that. and it also means “a place of education.”
There are additional, perhaps Byzantine aspects. These Bates students, who have homes in other states and who register as Maine citizens, are not required to register their automobiles in Maine, nor are they required to obtain a Maine driver’s license.
I am uncertain, but suspect they are also not required to file a Maine income tax form. This appears unfair to Maine citizens, especially those enrolled in Maine colleges who do bear these costs.