Andrew Lardie, associate director of the McKeen Center for the Common Good, dressed for the occasion as he helps Bowdoin College students register to vote. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

BRUNSWICK — Some Bowdoin College students want to make an impact on local and state elections in Maine, even if the students are from away.

The college took part in a national drive to register students on Tuesday.

“It’s going really well. We’ve had a lot of activity,” said Andrew Lardie, associate director of the McKeen Center for the Common Good. “Most colleges have not historically put a lot of effort into helping students vote. We’ve started doing this for the last three years.”

While it’s a straightforward path for students from Maine to vote in their home state, students from away are faced with an important choice: Whether to cast an absentee ballot in their home state, or register to cast a ballot in person in Maine.

“Most students want to vote where it’s convenient to vote physically, and more convenient to pay attention and to be aware of what the issues are,” said Lardie.

In addition, some students feel strongly that they’re part of the Maine community and want to have a voice in it. Bowdoin Junior Cole Crawford, originally from California, said he was registering to vote in Maine for just that reason.

“I really enjoy living in Maine and I care about Maine politics,” said Crawford. “I wish we were a bigger part of the community and students made more of an effort to engage with Maine politics and think about how to be more active.”

Other students wanted to register where their vote would have the biggest impact.

“Some students want to vote tactically. They recognize that their vote can make more of an impact in one jurisdiction that they’re eligible for than in the other, and that’s their right to make that analytical decision,” explained Lardie.

Bowdoin student Sam Adler said he wasn’t planning to register Tuesday, but he saw the center’s table as he left his dorm and decided to sign up. A senior at Bowdoin, he said that in the past he’s voted in his home state of Massachusetts, but after learning how easy it was to register to vote in Maine, he decided to do just that.

“This year I wanted to register in Maine because I feel like my vote counts more,” said Adler.

After seeing Maine’s 2nd District vote go to President Donald Trump in 2016, Adler said he was convinced that Maine elections were more competitive than his home state.

First-year student Sara Nelson, also from Massachusetts, felt the same way and was registering to vote in Maine for the first time.

“There aren’t a lot of elections questions and races that are up in the air right now in Massachusetts,” said Nelson. “I feel like here it’s a little more iffy who wins.”

Lardie said the center’s focus on registering students began in 2015, inspired by a national push to increase low registration rates among college students. He said the past few years have been a learning experience for the college. On Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day, the center had registration tables set up in two locations on campus.

While most of the focus for students is on Maine’s statewide elections, Lardie hopes that the center can engage students in local Brunswick elections, too.

“I would like to host a candidate forum for local town council or maybe even school board races this year or in the future, but it’s a matter of having the bandwidth to put on that extra programming,” he said.

Beyond the registration efforts, the center will be working to spread information about the candidates and issues on the ballot.

“We are not just concerned with registering all these students to vote who have no idea what the issues are and don’t feel invested in the town,” said Lardie. “We are very concerned with educating voters as much as we are with registering them and turning them out.”

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: