Message to Bowdoin Students—Voting (September 18, 2020)

Bowdoin students,

In the United States, voting is one of our most important rights and is central to the preservation of our democracy. Yet, year after year, millions of people who can vote don’t make it to the polls. This is especially true for young people.

Nationwide, in the 2016 presidential election, only 43 percent of eligible voters between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four actually voted. I am writing to clarify how you can exercise your right to vote this fall, in light of new guidance received this week from the Maine Secretary of State and the Brunswick Town Clerk.

To be clear, Bowdoin does not encourage or discourage a voter from registering in any particular municipality. College students who are US citizens are entitled to vote either from their “permanent” home address, or from where they have established a residence to attend school. This fall, Bowdoin students who choose to vote in Brunswick need to know the following:

  • Nearly every student who wants to vote in Brunswick will need to complete a new voter registration application, even if they are already registered here.
  • Students who’ve been displaced from campus housing cannot receive mail at their Smith Union box, so they need to update their mailing address with the town clerk.
  • Students continuing to live on campus are no longer in the same residence hall, so they also need to update their residence address with the town clerk.
  • When any student submits a voter registration application, they must attach documentation for it to be accepted. Along with your completed application, always enclose a copy of a photo ID. Your Bowdoin ID card is fine for this.
  • Students who currently live on campus will not need to attach proof of residency, as the town clerk will confirm it using a College directory.
  • Students who do not live on campus must provide proof of local residency. Next Monday, the registrar’s office will email every enrolled student who is over eighteen, a US citizen, and not currently residing on campus an official document that you can print for this purpose.

A final note regarding voting in Brunswick: due to the extraordinary logistical and health challenges posed by the pandemic, I encourage local students to vote by mail this fall. Please enclose your absentee ballot request form when you submit your voter registration application.

Wherever you choose to vote this fall, you don’t have to navigate the process alone. Bowdoin Votes staff are preparing to reach out to every student this fall for one-on-one support. Visit their website to learn about volunteering or to get help. The Maine Secretary of State and Brunswick Town Clerk also provide detailed instructions on how to register and vote in Maine.

Next Tuesday, September 22, is National Voter Registration Day, a great day to update your registration, request your ballot, and start getting ready to vote. Bowdoin Votes will be live all day on Zoom to help.

Part of Bowdoin’s mission is to prepare students for a lifetime of engaged citizenship, and a key aspect of that is to become a voter. Regardless of where you vote or who you support, I hope you will make your voice heard this fall at the ballot box.

All the best,

Clayton