Hartwell

GORHAM With the general election a few weeks away, a town councilor is questioning Gorham’s voter registration list, saying it poses a situation ripe for wrongdoing.

Town Councilor Ben Hartwell said the town’s voter list of 14,474 registrants includes names of people who should not be on it because it has not been “purged” of those who no longer live in Maine.

That could theoretically result, Hartwell said, in a former resident seeking an absentee ballot to be mailed to them at an out-of-state address. Someone could request an absentee ballot for a former resident they know is no longer in town, he said, or, because identification is not required at the polls, someone could vote under the name of a person no longer living in town.

He said municipal clerks should compare signatures on voter registrations with those on absentee ballot requests.

He recently acquired the town’s voter registration list, he said, and found it includes the names of at least two people who he knows moved away several years ago. One of the voters relocated to New York in 2013, he said.

Part of the problem, Hartwell said, is that Gorham is a college town. University of Southern Maine students living in dormitories on the Gorham campus or in local apartments are legally able to register and vote in town. Students also have the option of voting absentee in their hometowns.

The problem with the list is not the fault with anyone in town government, Hartwell emphasized.

Rather, he said, the fault lies with the turnover of USM students who have once voted in Gorham and then relocated.

Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors said this week that it is up to the state to maintain voter rolls.

“They purge the list every few years,” Nordfors said.

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office maintains voter registration lists for all the state’s 500 towns, according to Maine Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn in the Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions.

There is no indication that anyone voting in Gorham has voted in someone else’s name, which is a Class C crime punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine, Flynn said.

The state’s eligible voter list is updated through the use of death notices, postal address changes and Bureau of Motor Vehicle address changes, among other systems, some of which have been stymied by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hartwell said he wants to find “a better way” to identify former voters who have moved to other states.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: