BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College students cast more than 400 absentee ballots on Oct. 24, a strong early turnout that town officials believe was driven by the state referendum on Maine’s same-sex marriage law.
Meanwhile, with Election Day fast approaching, a Green Independent Party member running for Town Council is leading in campaign contributions received.
According to Town Clerk Fran Smith, 417 Bowdoin students cast ballots over the four hours of Early Vote Day held Oct. 24 at the college’s Smith Union building. Smith said the turnout wasn’t far from last year’s early voting, when between 400 and 450 students cast absentee ballots.
Smith said last year’s turnout was typical for a presidential and congressional election. What makes this year’s high turnout unique is the absence of even legislative races, leading officials to assume that Question 1, which asks voters if they want to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law, is bringing students to the polls.
Smith said it is standard practice for the town to hold early voting at the college when it anticipates high turnout.
Smith expects another large turnout among Bowdoin students when the polls open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. In the past, the college has arranged shuttles to bus students to the polls.
The early voting numbers follow a grassroots effort by the college’s Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance, a student organization and support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and the Bowdoin College Democrats. Both organizations oppose repealing the same-sex marriage law, and have been working to register voters. They’ve also deployed volunteers to canvas the town for support.
The groups have also been working with Protect Maine Equality, the political action committee working across Maine to uphold the gay marriage law.
Student supporters of same-sex marriage don’t appear to be facing opposition from the Bowdoin College Republicans, who are reportedly focusing their efforts on the excise tax and TABOR II initiatives, ballot Questions 2 and 4.
Council candidate funds
On the local ballot, voters will decide three races for Town Council. According to the latest campaign finance disclosure, District 4 candidate Jason Bergquist is leading in contributions received with about $1,200. His opponent, John Perreault, has raised nearly $650.
Bergquist, who ran as a Green Independent candidate last year in state Senate District 10, received $100 from the Maine Green Independent Party.
Municipal legislative races are technically non-partisan. However, state lawmakers and party leaders have been known to encourage party members to run for local seats. The practice is most apparent in Portland, where candidates openly declare their party affiliations.
The practice isn’t as overt in Brunswick. However, voting blocks have been established to divide the council’s conservative and liberal members.
Bergquist leads the council candidates in contributions, but not in overall fundraising. That distinction belongs to incumbent at-large Councilor Joanne King, who leads all the candidates with more than $1,500 in her campaign coffer. King, who is challenged by fellow Councilor Karen Klatt, is financing her own campaign.
Klatt has received more than $750 in contributions.
In District 3, incumbent Councilor Hallie Daughtry has received about $120, while her opponent, Suzan Wilson, has collected nearly $630.
The three candidates running for School Board are unopposed.
Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. District 1 residents vote at the Perryman Village Community Center, District 2 and District 7 at Brunswick Junior High School, District 3 at Brunswick High School, District 4 at the Recreation Center (30 Federal St.), District 5 at Pejepscot Terrace and District 6 at the former Union Street School at the corner of Cumberland and Union streets.