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.