Voting scandal rocks Bates College

Cases of “voter suppression” aimed at Maine college students surfaced this past Sunday, according to The Portland Press Herald. Fliers circulating around Bates College provided false information regarding voter registration in the state, making the process seem more difficult and more expensive in Lewiston, where Maine governer Paul LePage grew up homeless. 

The fliers claimed that anyone wishing to vote in the State would need to pay to change their driver’s licenses and pay to re-register their vehicle. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap assured citizens that the fliers contained false information: “whether an individual obtains a Maine driver’s license or not has no impact on your ability to exercise your right to vote.”

Bates student Sarah Frankie Sigman, who removed at least 30 fliers upon discovering them, posted “You can register at the polls on November 8 in Maine and Lewiston is a make or break district!” on her Facebook page to bring light to the incident. The incident has been picked up by news outlets across the United States.

Younger students attending small, liberal arts colleges are a democratic voting block, so, unsurprisingly, Maine’s Democratic Party labeled the attempts as “deliberate attempts to suppress the millennial vote.”

Lewiston is located in Maine’s second congressional district, a battleground between Trump and Clinton. Since Maine awards its electoral votes by district, rather than winner take all, the Trump campaign is able to focus on cities like Lewiston. Colby students in Waterville, a city in the left-leaning first district, found no fliers, but were reminded by professors, administrators, and other students that their voting was as simple as same-day registration with their names and mailbox addresses. 

LePage, in a statement reported by the Washington Post, cited concern about voter fraud in response to the fliers: “Democrats for decades have encouraged college students from out of state to vote in Maine, even though there is no way to determine whether these college students also voted in their home states.”

Zachary Heiden, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said, “The governor’s statement seems designed to make college students afraid to vote,” and called that action “illegal.”  He went on to attack LePage more: “College students who live in Maine have the right to vote in Maine, and they are not subject to different laws than anyone else. Many of these young people are voting for the first time in a presidential election. The governor should be encouraging that civic participation, not doing everything in his power to undermine it.”

Dunlap added to Heiden’s statement, asserting, “Attempting to prevent American citizens from participating in their democratic process of self-governance through intimidation and fear is shameful, and it should be treasonable.”

While it’s unclear who distributed the fliers, executive director of the Maine Republican Party Jason Savage asserted in a tweet that his organization had “nothing to do” with the incident. 

Bates President Clayton Spencer said she was deeply disturbed by efforts of voter suppression, but assured that her College was taking the proper measures to support its students: “We at Bates College are doing everything possible to ensure that our students have clear information about how to register and vote.”

Max Gardner, a Bates freshman from New York City, noted “Bates turnout is through the roof” following the incident. Junior Hannah Prince claimed, “Batsies really showed up.” It seems the attempt at voter suppression from an anonymous source backfired on them.