April 07, 2020

Bangor’s next vote

The Bangor City Council will consider reducing the number of polling places now that it has ordered a special election for next March to fill the unexpired term of former Mayor Michael Aube. Though the concern over the cost of the election is appreciated, the confusion such a change would cause and the possibility that it even fewer people would vote because of it suggest that keeping all polling places open is the better course.

An election using all eight of Bangor’s polling spots costs approximately $8,000. Councilors wondered whether opening only four of them, which they could do by law, or having even just one place to vote, which would require a change in ordinance, would fairly serve the election and save a few dollars besides. Because the city would have to print the same number of ballots no matter how many polling places it had, the savings wouldn’t be much, perhaps a couple thousand dollars.

A special election on a single local issue is guaranteed to have a low voter turnout. Fewer than 10 percent of registered voters turn out for special elections in Bangor, with a low not long ago of a mere 3.5 percent. Though that means most of the city’s polling places are depressingly empty most of the day of an election, closing some of them would give residents even more reason not to vote and some who did vote might wonder whether to return to that voting place in the next election or go back to the precinct they voted in previously.

It is unfortunate enough that elections in a city with 18,700 registered voters are sometimes decided by only several hundred. Councilors might look at keeping all the polling places open as an exercise in good government, a way to encourage the largest number of voters possible to choose the next person to join them on the council.

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