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Orono voters should back the effort to move town elections to November.

A win for Question 1 is a win for democracy

In a community where students feel deprived of their right to vote, many may question why they should remain engaged, active or interested in local politics. 

This lack of representation is liable to change, though, as on March 5, Question 1, an amendment to the Town Charter, will be voted upon. If passed, it would shift elections from March to November and allow you as a student to exercise the most powerful weapon, your voice, at the ballot box.

This is a big deal because, for roughly 50 years, the Town of Orono seems to have made it their goal to say to students, “We do not care how the people are represented.” The results of this approach couldn’t be any clearer, with an average turnout of roughly 5% in March elections compared to 30% for those held in November. While both numbers are horribly low, the March number results from elections being held during spring break, when most students are at home. Frankly, I have previously refused to vote in Orono elections as an act of protest. This year, I will be a voter in Orono’s March election for the first time. As a result of the town council proposing a shift in the election date to November, I finally feel my voice is being valued. 

Changing the Orono election date will have other positive effects, including the likelihood of increased voter turnout in the long term. College students haven’t been the most active in the past, but that has changed since Trump came to office in 2017. Issues such as contraceptive rights, LGBTQIA+ related issues, wealth inequality, healthcare, unions, the climate crisis, and so many more have been at the forefront as students’ vulnerability related to these issues has become even more significant. We will likely see strengthened youth turnout as these issues remain increasingly prevalent. 

An important positive outcome is the right to exercise your vote in our democracy. In years past, it was required to request an absentee ballot. This process has proven difficult for students, given some have a hefty workload and may forget to submit a request. Making it easier to exercise your vote will increase youth turnout. More people having a say in how local matters should be decided, especially those impacting students, allows freedom of assembly to be exercised.

We have the chance to make a difference. Students can seize the opportunity to be no longer disenfranchised and have an equal chance just as every citizen, to vote in person. We will see changes being made when we allow students an equal opportunity to vote. As things stand, and if Article 1 is voted down, there is no purpose for a student to vote in local elections. On Mar. 5, 2024, please exercise your right to vote by voting “Yes” on Article 1 to change the local election date from March to November, as it is one that will ensure more people have a chance at an equal say in democracy. 

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