LEWISTON — Former mayoral candidate Luke Jensen and two other city politicians are passing petitions seeking to move Lewiston’s voting date up from November to June.

Jensen said the change is a reaction to Bates College students’ influence on city votes.

“If you look at the last election, I would say the Bates students voted a little dis-proportionally compared to the rest of the city,” Jensen said. “So the Bates students probably swung the mayor’s race and at least one City Council race. It would be wrong to say that Bates students voting was not a motivating factor in this petition.”

Bates College classes typically end late in May, with commencement at the end of the month. Students usually return and classes start again in August, too late to vote in a June election.

Jensen lost his Lewiston mayoral bid last month, coming in well behind Mayor Robert Macdonald and challenger Ben Chin. Those two face each other in a runoff vote Dec. 8.

Jensen, one of three conservatives on November’s mayoral ballot, lost in all wards. Conservative Macdonald won in Wards 2, 4, 6 and 7. Liberal candidate Chin won in Ward 5, but had his biggest support in Wards 1 and 3.

Bates students vote in Wards 1 and 3.

But Jensen said he was also thinking of senior citizens.

“A lot of seniors don’t like voting in November,” he said. “It’s cold; it’s dark. If you have it in June and the summer, I think you’ll have a higher turnout. More people will be around and they won’t just feel like staying inside.”

Patti Gagne, who also signed the petition, said the change is designed to make it easier for Lewiston’s elderly “snowbirds” to vote. Those are people who leave Maine in October for warmer climates, returning in April or May.

“We want to schedule the vote when the snowbirds can be home,” she said. “They usually are gone October to April or early May.”

Gagne said the effort was not designed to discourage students from Bates College from voting.

Gagne lost the 2014 Senate race for Lewiston’s District 21 to Nate Libby by 83 votes. Gagne noted that she won in several wards but lost especially in Wards 1 and 3.

“It was a half of a percent that I lost by,” she said.

Brian Dale Wood and his wife, Jennifer, are the third and fourth members of the petition committee. Wood ran for City Council Ward 6 in November, coming in third out of three candidates.

Jensen and his group submitted their petition request Nov. 13. Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said she issued the petition Nov. 18, and the group now has until March 16 to collect 2,736 signatures.

It would ask voters to change the city charter regarding when the regular municipal election is scheduled. According to the charter, the municipal vote is set on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November every odd-numbered year.

The proposed change would move it to the second Tuesday of June in odd-numbered years.

Alison Beyea, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said her group would monitor the change.

“This proposal would have a negative effect on the ability of young people — many of whom are getting ready to vote for the very first time — to cast a ballot,” Beyea said in an email. “We’re concerned any time cities make changes that make it harder for people to vote.”

But Jensen said Bates students who have lived in the community will still be able to vote by absentee ballot.

“If they consider Lewiston their home — and the key word there is ‘home’ — it’s perfectly legal for them to do that,” Jensen said.

Newly elected officials — city councilors, School Committee members and the mayor — would take office in August, according to the proposed change. They currently take office on the first Monday in January.

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