WATERVILLE — Waterville attorney David Geller grilled Colby College senior Anna Braverman, who registered to vote in Waterville in February 2016, asking whether she has a motor vehicle on campus, under whose name and where it is registered and under whose policy it is insured.

But Leah Rachin, an attorney representing of Braverman and 74 other Colby students and faculty whose eligibility to vote in Waterville is being challenged, objected.

“I think this line of questioning is inappropriate and entirely irrelevant,” she said. Questions about Braverman’s driver’s license and where her car is registered are enforcement issues and have nothing to do with what she intended at the time she registered to vote, Rachin said.

“This isn’t the board’s bailiwick to make those determinations,” she said.

Roland Hallee, chairman of the Waterville Voter Registration Appeals Board, agreed.

Colby College students, from left, Anna Braverman, Lutie Brown and Colleen George are sworn in before testifying before the Waterville Voter Registration Appeals board during a hearing in Waterville regarding voter eligibility on Wednesday. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

The board on Wednesday heard appeals from Waterville resident Cathy Weeks, one of three people disputing the eligibility of 75 Colby students and faculty to vote in Waterville. Those voters cast ballots in the November election that resulted in the approval of a plastic bag referendum that prohibits some businesses from dispensing the bags. Geller said he was representing only Weeks and not her husband, Jonathan, or Shaun Caron, the two others challenging the voter eligibility.

Representing the board was City Solicitor William A. Lee III, who said the board was to decide the cases based on evidence provided at the hearings. They were to continue until noon Friday. The board plans to issue decisions either Friday or May 8.

Braverman said she lives in a dormitory on the Colby campus. She lives in the city 10 months a year. Her parents live in New York, but she considers Waterville home, she said.

After the Nov. 6 election, Braverman was notified her vote was being challenged and her eligibility to vote was being questioned. On Nov. 30, she submitted another application for residency. Geller asked her if she considered herself a Waterville resident continuously from the first time she registered to vote and on Nov. 30. She said yes.

He asked if she understood that, under Maine law, if she continues to drive here, she is required to get a Maine driver’s license. She said she was not aware at the time she voted. Geller then asked a series of questions about whether she has a credit card, where her bank is located, whether she has a municipal library card and whether she has a bedroom at her parents’ home in New York.

So it went with other students, as well as Colby psychology professor Melissa Glenn.

Before the questions started, Amy Olfene, an attorney representing Colby College, argued that the hearings should not be held because the Maine Supreme Judicial Court already determined the issue had been resolved. Olfene said she filed a letter April 19 stating that position. The board, not yet having reviewed the motion, voted 3-0 to take it under advisement and make a decision later, after they have reviewed the information.

Attorneys address the Waterville Voter Registration Appeals board during a hearing in Waterville regarding voter eligibility on Wednesday. From left at the table are City Solicitor Bill Lee, board chairman Roland Hallee, and members Kim Lane and Roger Collins. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

Geller said voting is a fundamental constitutional right for every adult citizen in the U.S., but that right must be extended legally and properly. The residency requirement becomes more complicated when one considers all the cases before the board. Each case must be decided individually, he said, and where each of the college students resides for voting purposes is key.

Rachin opened by saying “it feels like this is deja vu all over again,” because students and faculty have to repeatedly defend the validity of their votes and that the right to vote “is something that needs to be defended vigorously.” The law, she said, spells out a student’s right to vote.

“We’ve heard that this (appeal) is all about maintaining the sanctity of the process, and we would ask that you not be fooled by that,” she told the board. “This is an attempt to disenfranchise Colby voters.”

She added that there are those who believe “people from away” or those who have different leanings politically should not be able to decide issues, “which would appear happened in this case.”

The law, she said, requires that the residence of a person is that place where the person has established a fixed and principal home and where, whenever they are temporarily absent, they intend to return. The undisputed fact is that the voters being challenged live in a dorm or apartment in Waterville, she said.

Geller said if a person claims to be a resident of Waterville but continues to drive a motor vehicle with an out-of state driver’s license and fails to get a Maine license, that person has not established Waterville as a residence.

“You’ll see that many of the challenged votes will fit into that particular scenario,” he said.

City Clerk Patti Dubois, who also is the city’s registrar of voters, determined previously that the voters were eligible to vote in the city. She said that when students first arrive in the city, they typically do not have any documentation other than their dorm residence, and when that is the case, an oath suffices. That also is the case when people move to Waterville and may not immediately have registered vehicles or obtained drivers’ licenses, she said.

Rachin asked if Dubois asks for all the documentation that a person who has lived in the city a longer time would have, such as mail, driver’s license and so forth; Dubois said she does not. She asks for proof of identity and proof of residency, if available, and an oath, as required by the Secretary of State’s Office.


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