Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dead Horse Reprise: College Voting

It's my habit to accumulate a stack of newspapers and other items to "look at later" for possible interest in blog posting. At some point, guilt confronts me and I decide to weed through them. Bad weather helps in doing it sooner rather than later.

I posted last week on the "dead horse" issue of college voting. I really had nothing more to say on the issue, and the election is over, obviously.

So it seemed like time to move on to the next windmill.

That is, until I paged through last Friday's Bowdoin Orient. To update the record, it turns out that Joanne King advertised in the paper as well as Karen Klatt. It's also the case that town residents and others wrote letters to the Orient endorsing candidates and referendum positions. So like it or not (and I clearly don't), the issue of college voting in town has become not only a dead horse, but a situation to be leveraged.

What has driven me to revisit the horse is the lead editorial in the Orient, entitled Vote at "home," which you can find here.

This offering adds an additional level of insult to the discussion of this "settled" subject, inasmuch as the editors think it's perfectly acceptable to choose where you want to vote based on the ballot issues involved. In so many words, applicable election law is irrelevant; vote where you feel like it will give you the greatest satisfaction. Far worse is their belief that it's hunky dory to switch back and forth between your permanent residence and the campus location from election to election.

In other words, you might call yourself a "resident" of Brunswick for this week's election, and then call yourself a "resident" of your hometown next year because they're electing a governor in your home state. Simply put, whatever suits your desire of the moment is where you should vote.

These passages make the point:

For the majority of students hailing from states other than Maine, this allows them a choice between two ballots. Virtually no other demographic in the United States has this choice.

We are left in a strange legal limbo, able to claim residency and vote in one or the other, depending on our preference.

Note the use of the word "preference" to decide where you vote, not adherence to the letter of the law. As confirmed in these words:

Our ability to register and vote in either state presents an opportunity to volley ourselves between states based on hot-button topics, rather than issues important to the local population.

Given my experience with voting rolls, this cavalier attitude towards establishing residence and then voting is fraught with opportunity for abuse and error, if not problems of conscience, which seem passe in this day and age. The ability to double register and then vote in two locations is a snap, especially since each place you register would do their best to make things easy for you. It's just their nature.

This "volley" concept, if nothing else does, demonstrates how Maine election law enforcement is violated at will. "Residency" in Maine is something you "establish;" you don't do so simply by being somewhere. So's for the kids, and they deserve some slack.

If this editorial doesn't alert you to the dangers of student voting, and the potential for electoral abuse in general, than I'm afraid nothing will. Hey...don't worry, be happy.

It's only the town's future and other details of government operation that are at stake. Who has the time to worry about such things when there's chicken-keeping and bio-solids to worry about?

Hmmm.....maybe that's what that smell is.

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