By Morgan Clark, Staff Reporter
With the vast amount of political information floating throughout the media, it can be particularly difficult for young voters to find their footing. Beginning in early February, states across the nation have voted for their presidential candidates, one from the Democratic Party and one from the Republican Party. In Maine, this will be accomplished during the upcoming caucus elections, held on March 5 and March 6 in Farmington.
“The caucus is like a town meeting where voters meet to discuss who they would like to see represent their party on the national ballot,” said Nick Bray, President of the College Democrats at UMF. “Nationally, the Democrats and Republicans each have several candidates seeking their party’s nomination to be on the ballot.”
Though the end result is the same as a caucus, many other states hold primary elections. Similar to general elections, primary elections send voters to the polls to cast their vote. In each case, the voters nominate one candidate for their party to run for president.
“This system allows the field to be narrowed down,” said Bray, “allowing each party to focus on the one candidate they believe is most qualified to perform the duties of the president.” According to Bray, the Republicans began with 17 nominees, and though many have since dropped out of the race, the field will eventually be narrowed to just one candidate. This process will also occur for the Democrats, though their party began with only five nominees.
Though it is encouraged, students who wish to vote in the upcoming caucus election may run into a few difficulties. Voters are required to register to vote in their town of their legal residence. For many, this is their hometown, meaning they must travel back home to participate. Fortunately however, students who are not currently registered have the opportunity to do so in Farmington.
“On campus students will need proof that they live on campus,” said Bray, if students wish to participate in the Farmington caucus. “Off campus students can register provide residency by using their lease or a utility bill.”
“In most Maine counties, there is only one caucus site for the entire county,” said James Melcher, Political Science professor at UMF, who has a lot of experience with both presidential caucuses and primaries. “You can be from another state, but if you are in Maine the majority of the year, you can vote here,” he said.
Absentee ballots are also available for the Democratic caucus, for those that live away and do not wish to change their voter registration. The Republicans, however, do not allow absentee ballots.
“This is a particularly important year to caucus,” said Melcher. “Both parties have wide-open races with contrasting choices inside each.” Because Obama cannot run for re-election, the election is open to all new prospects.
Both Melcher and Bray encourage students to be active citizens and participate in voting for their party’s elections. The Republican caucuses will be held Saturday, March 5,at Mt. Blue High School, while the Democratic caucuses will be held Sunday, March 6 in the North Dining Hall at UMF. More information, including the times of each event, can be found at www.mainedems.org/page/find-your-caucus and http://www.mainegop.com/caucus/.