WATERVILLE — About 150 absentee ballots submitted by Colby College students using addresses on Mayflower Hill Drive are being challenged on grounds that the addresses don’t meet voter registration requirements.

A group of registered voters in Waterville has argued that the addresses – which include a four-digit student number but don’t reflect where exactly a student lives – could cause confusion over which wards and districts a student should be voting in.

In the past, a majority of students lived on campus at Mayflower Hill, but the opening of a new dormitory building at 150 Main St. – which is in a different ward and legislative district than the main campus – has complicated the issue, said Waterville City Clerk Patti Dubois.

Dubois downplayed the challenge, saying it’s “really just an administrative task” to update the registration information and that as long as students live on campus, they’re eligible to vote.

“We’re in the process of collecting residence address information for new registrations and updating those who vote tomorrow to capture their residence addresses,” Dubois said Monday afternoon. “We’ll update it to say if it’s a hall, whatever hall it is and what room number they live in. The mailing address will still be Mayflower Hill, except for the folks downtown, who will register at 150 Main Street.”

In an interview Monday, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap called the situation “really a misunderstanding.”

Even so, Dunlap said it was his impression that a majority, if not all, of the voter registrations were not done correctly for the ballots that have been challenged.

“There’s no voter suppression,” Dunlap said. “Someone didn’t make a distinction between mailing address and physical address and now the legitimacy of those ballots has been challenged with standing because they don’t have a physical address.”

For now, the ballots will be processed but will be marked as challenged, he said.

In the event of a recount, the ballots would be looked at by attorneys for both political parties to determine if the registrations are valid, the Secretary of State’s Office said.

Dubois could not provide the names of those who challenged the ballots Monday, but did say the group includes House District 110 candidate Mark Andre, although he was precluded from personally filling out the paperwork for the challenge because he does not live in Waterville.

Andre, a Republican who is running against incumbent Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, said the process for student voting in Waterville has “been flawed for decades” and he brought the issue to Maine’s secretary of state last month.

State Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, serving as Andre’s attorney, also wrote a letter to Dunlap about the issue, urging him to remind the Waterville city clerk that staff can ask students to state their addresses at the polls.

All Colby students receive their mail at the Cotter Student Union, regardless of whether they live on campus, off campus or in the downtown dorm, Colby spokeswoman Laura Meader said. Addresses contain a four-digit student number that follows the student throughout their time at Colby, regardless of where the student physically lives, and Mayflower Hill Drive is listed as the street.

The 150 Main St. location in downtown Waterville, which houses about 200 upperclassmen, is located in House District 109 and Ward 6, while Colby’s main campus on Mayflower Hill is located in House District 110 and Ward 3.

“It appears likely that many of those who have moved into the ‘new dorm’ will not realize that their House district (as well as their ward within the city of Waterville) has now changed, and the address on the voting list will continue to show them as Mayflower Hill Road – District 110,” Katz wrote in a copy of the letter provided by Andre. “The almost inevitable result will be that many of the Colby students who have moved to the ‘new dorm’ will be disenfranchised from voting within their correct house district (and Waterville ward).”

Andre stands to see about 200 Colby students not voting in his district if they are registered to vote at 150 Main St. He said some people have called the move voter suppression, although he said it’s the opposite.

“This will in fact ensure students are not disenfranchised,” Andre said. “Without a proper physical address, there’s no way to make sure students are receiving the right ballot.”

Andre said a difference of 200 Colby votes could have an impact on local races.

“Republicans on the Colby campus have stated they have a policy of not taking an interest in local elections and students should be voting absentee in their home states,” Andre said. “So it’s very one-sided. Republicans are doing it the way the law designed it to be, where the Democratic Party is encouraging students to vote but doesn’t mention that right includes residency.”

Lily Hermann, a Colby student who is chair of the Waterville Democratic Committee, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Madigan, Andre’s opponent in the House 110 race, said Monday that she was not aware of any issues surrounding students in the downtown dorm being properly registered to vote, but she was concerned about the challenge amounting to voter suppression.

“I think in the past, people have complained about college students and in Waterville, Colby students, voting, but the law is very clear in Maine,” Madigan said. “I’m sure whatever the dispute is, I have great faith in the city clerk and election workers. They do a great job. Whatever the problem is, I’m sure it will be cleared up.”

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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