Action

By Sam Underwood, Sociology Major

As organizers and political operatives, my colleagues and I have spent countless hours spinning our

wheels in the dilemma of how to engage younger voters—people our own age, really. The machinery of

governance is distant and inaccessible to many college students and young adults, so it’s not hard to

understand why almost anything is more important than voting when we suddenly realize that Election

Day is upon us. This week, though, I’m afforded a rare opportunity to lay it down for my fellow students.

I hope some of you will find my writing informative.

If you’re studying at SMCC and plan on being here for the duration of your degree program then

you have a stake in how our community is governed, and that community extends beyond the campus.

Any student at SMCC can register to vote in Maine at any time, up to and including on Election Day at

your polling location. If you register using your address at SMCC, your polling location is the Boys & Girls

Club at 169 Broadway.

To register, new Maine voters must fill out a voter registration card and present it to their town

clerk. The card is pretty straightforward. A common hang-up is the residency requirement, but this really

just means that you need proof of a physical address in Maine. To help the clerk verify your residential

status, bring a piece of mail, a lease, or a utilities bill with you when you register. This document will

show that the postman recognizes that you live where you say you do, and that’s good enough.

After registering you’re entitled to vote on Election Day or cast an absentee ballot prior to the

election if that’s your preference. The good people at Maine.gov have also set up a webpage where you

can plug in your address to check your polling location, see a list of your elected officials, and even

review the ballot questions you’ll be voting on. Once you’re in the voting booth, you may abstain from

any question you don’t understand or can’t decide on. The important thing is that your voice be heard

on the subjects you do feel strongly about.

Every year we have an election, and this year the ballot is refreshingly uncomplicated. South

Portland voters will join the rest of the state in deciding with Question 1 whether or not they want to

strengthen campaign finance laws and stiffen penalties for those who break them. Questions 2 and 3 are

bond issues requesting voter approval of funding for affordable senior housing and construction

projects. Additionally, a myriad of citizens are competing for municipal offices, including seats on the

City Council, the Board of Education, and the Water District Board of Trustees. They usually have

platforms and opinions that you can investigate on their websites and Facebook pages.

A final word on apathy: I often hear people, especially those in my own age bracket, subscribe to

a belief that the entire system is broken and a single vote doesn’t count anyway, and in this fashion they

justify not going to the polls. If you’re grappling with such thoughts, consider how President Bush won

Florida in the 2000 election by a mere 537 votes, securing his final victory by a very narrow margin.

Together we create the world we live in, either through action or inaction. I’m here to tell you that your

vote absolutely counts when the chips are down.

I sincerely hope you’ll join me at the polls on November 3rd.

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