The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Day: November 7, 2016

Maine ACLU calls on US Dept. of Justice to investigate voter suppression efforts

These fliers were dispersed around the Bates College campus early Sunday. (Photo Courtesy Christopher Petrella Twitter)

These fliers were dispersed around the Bates College campus early Sunday.
(Photo Courtesy Christopher Petrella Twitter)

Sunday morning students encountered bright orange leaflets reading “BATES ELECTION LEGAL ADVISORY.” The word ‘legal’ was underlined and had stars around it to add emphasis. Below that were two categorically false statements. First, students wanting to vote must change their driver’s licenses to a Maine license and second, that vehicles must be re-registered, with a note stating that this often costs hundreds of dollars. The leaflets were immediately removed from Commons and dorm buildings, and a suspect was identified as a tall blonde man.

On October 25, Federal and State officials along with the ACLU of Maine published a press release on election fraud claims. U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II said in the press release, “Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud. The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process.”

A Maine Assistant United States Attorney said he could not yet comment on the specifics of this case, and directed The Student to the FBI. At this time, the FBI was unavailable for comment. Legal Director at the ACLU of Maine Zachary Heiden spoke with The Student, saying, “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prevents any person from threatening or intimidating or coercing or attempting to threaten or attempting to intimidate a person to interfere with their right to vote. And it seemed to me, given the timing of the letter (just before an election), and the target audience (student voters), that the only reasonable purpose of such a letter would be to scare students into not voting.”

Heiden also noted, “Intent is not the only important question under the Voting Rights Act, so even if the people who sent these fliers or the Governor did not intend to coerce, threaten, or intimidate, if the letters had the likely effect of doing that, they would still violate the law. So another part of the investigation would be to figure out what was the effect; were people intimidated? Were people scared? Were people made to feel that they would be subject to unwelcome government attention if they decided to exercise their fundamental rights?”

Governor Paul LePage had his own take on the matter, saying in a statement on his website that Democrats “have encouraged college students from out of state to vote in Maine” and college students are allowed to vote “as long as they follow all laws that regulate voting, motor vehicles and taxes.” Of course, citizens are not required to own a vehicle to vote, nor are voters required to have a driver’s license.

Heiden said that, in addition to investigating the incident at Bates, the ACLU is “looking into comments made by the Governor today that also target student voting, and we have called on the US Department of Justice to investigate.”

According to Heiden, “the Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes this a civil offense. But the National Voter Registration Act [of 1993] makes it, intentionally, a criminal offense. There are both criminal and civil penalties associated with this.”

President Clayton Spencer spoke of the event to the Lewiston Sun Journal, saying it was “clearly a deliberate attempt at voter suppression,” and released a statement on the Bates website saying: “Many Bates students are eligible to register and vote in the City of Lewiston. Any unofficial communications that suggest otherwise are contrary to the ideals of American democracy.”

This voter suppression effort has mobilized the Bates student body. On the evening of November 7, Bates students staged a student demonstration, organized by Bates Student Action and Bates Democrats, decrying Republican nominee Donald Trump and his problematic tactics throughout his campaign. Meghan Lynch ‘17, election co-lead of Bates Student Action, said before the demonstration, “We are now incorporating the voter suppression signs. We will be distributing replicates of the original signs with actual information about the voter registration process during the demonstration.”

“We planned the demonstration so as to send a sense of urgency to students about the value of our vote in this contested district,” Lynch said. “Bates students will have a huge effect on whether or not Trump gets the 2nd district’s elector, and the presidency could come down to a few electors. Bates students could ‘tip the scale’ towards Clinton, as will be demonstrated by the banner.”

With robust efforts on campus to get out the vote, canvass for ballot initiatives, early voting transport, and registering students, Bates College is gearing up for the 2016 Presidential Election. And it doesn’t appear that these orange leaflets are about to dissuade any Bobcats from exercising their Constitutional right and civic duty.

Lynch concluded, “I just think it is incredibly ironic that while these voter suppression signs were being distributed on campus, we had over 40 Bates students canvassing off campus, encouraging other Lewiston residents to vote.”

The Student interviews Roger Fuller, Candidate for Maine House of Representatives District 59

The Student had the opportunity to interview Roger Fuller, Democratic Candidate for District 59 in the Maine House of Representatives. Fuller has lived in Maine since 1968, when he started school at the University of Maine. He began his long career as a teacher in Lewiston in 1972. Though Fuller moved to Los Angeles for a teaching job from 1999-2014, he returned to Lewiston in 2014, and his family has kept their home in the city.

Fuller formed the Androscoggin Valley Community Network (AVCN) between 1989-1991 in collaboration with Robert Spellman, the Associate Director for Network Services at Bates, linking all the the high schools in the region (Edward Little, Lewiston, Lisbon, Oak Hill, and Turner). The AVCN was the first use of internet relaying communications in Maine, and set up forums for students to exchange data.

Below is a summary of Fuller’s positions on several of the main issues in this election.

On how he can enhance the quality of education from a political perspective:

“I was fortunate be on the original committee that wrote the learning standards for the state of Maine. So the learning standards have been the single most effective document to govern education in the state of Maine for the last 15-25 years. The current movement towards proficiency-based diplomas is, in fact, an enactment, a realization, of the original philosophy behind those learning standards when they were written… The learning by proficiency that we are trying to do needs to be more about excellence in performance and more about social relativism, and not just about earning a grade on a final exam. So I will always be a big believer that the best learning is that learning that is engaged in the community-and you’ve done that at Bates with the Harward Center, which is productive for the student and reflective of what the student has learned… Learning is not measured by a test alone, but a test is a measure of learning.”

On climate change:

“It’s here, it’s obvious, it’s impacting us now, and if we don’t do something we’re going to pay a greater price… We should be creating new sources of energy that are not reliant on the industrial segment of the economy…. We could put a lot of people to work creating solar energy facilities; we could put a lot of people to work creating geothermal facilities; we could put a lot of people to work generating electricity at the Passamaquoddy Bay without a dam.”

On raising the minimum wage:

“Yes, I believe we need to raise the minimum wage. What I like about this proposal is that it’s done in steps. What I also like about this proposal is that it includes those people we call “tipped workers,” and those people deserve- any human being deserves- the right to live a rational, reasonable life.”

On Ballot Question One, which asks voters whether recreational marijuana should be legalized for adults over the age of 21:

“It’s really the responsibility of the voters of Maine to make a decision. My opinion doesn’t count more than that of any other person in the state… On that particular referendum question, I would vote no, as I believe the risks are too high at the current time… I want more research, I want to see what happens in Colorado, I want the feedback from there before I vote yes on that.”

On Ballot Question Two, which asks whether the government should approve an additional three percent surcharge on the portion of any household income exceeding $200,000 per year, with all revenue from this tax being earmarked to fund public education:

“I’m in favor of that. What I like about that proposal is it puts that money for direct instruction, which is the key. That proposal did not put money into administrative costs or fixed costs, or delayed maintenance cost.”

On Ballot Question Three, which asks whether the state should require background checks before a gun sale or transfer between people who are not licensed firearm dealers:

“I think people in the current discussion of the gun control issue miss the history of Maine; we need to study it more. The reason it’s a constitutional right in the state to own a gun is really determine by our early settlers from 1720 to 1820 and the life they lived, and the risks they faced, especially in the Indian wars, were so profound. When the British burned Falmouth (in 1775) and people didn’t have ready access to firearms, it taught me the lesson that the gun law is not just about hunting and fishing, it’s about self-protection. We can’t take that away; we can’t ever abridge that right. At the same time, we have to guarantee that people using that are ready to use it, able to use it, and can use it in sensible ways.

On police reform:

“In the state of Maine, we’re blessed to have an excellent police reform who are doing the job to protect us. I don’t think the issue is necessarily about training, but I think it’s about putting communication back in the community. When the Lewiston Police Department had a community forum and people got to attend it and share their concerns, that’s a step in the right direction.”

On body cameras for police: 

“Getting the whole picture is always better than getting a portion of the picture. If the body camera gives us a wide-angle lens and the biggest picture possible, then that’s a good thing. If the body camera is only selecting the thing which is within the viewer’s range lens, that’s not a good thing… We need the context of a situation.”

On the importance of immigrants in Lewiston: 

“There are very few of us who are Native Americans. Immigration is a way of life, and for me, thank god that we have immigrants. They bring in diversity, they bring in vitality- I have an opportunity to work with new residents when I tutor on Wednesdays, and I am always impressed with what I see. Now, will there be problems with new residents? Of course there will? Should we be treating the newest of our residents any differently than other people who came to this city? I don’t think we should. They have a right to privacy, they have a right to personhood, and they have a right to the pursuit of happiness.”

On the divisive rhetoric surrounding immigration:

“When you move to the extremes in any political discussion, you create an absence of moderation. What we’re seeing in America and in our state government is an absence of moderation. We need people who can communicate, who can argue intelligently and argue reasonably without arguing emotionally. And those people should be willing to compromise; we don’t move forward when we go to the extremes, we only split the people… I do view myself a middle of the road Democratic who can listen first and talk later.”





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