This is a statement issued by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, addressed to students who may be concerned about voting in the wake of a flier distributed at Bates College that warned students about the possible legal consequences of casting a ballot Tuesday:

Your status as a student is a neutral factor in exercising your right to vote. If you are residing in a community while matriculated as a student and wish to vote, you can do so. While it is true that once you consider yourself a resident of a community that you will eventually have to do things like update your drivers license, etc, please bear in mind there are no statutory triggers that take place that compel you to pay excises taxes immediately on your vehicle in that town or other matters of public business as administered by the town. Your right to vote is not connected to meeting other civic obligations like paying fees or taxes.

Citizens of the United States have an absolute right to vote. In Maine, the issue has emerged about residency for voting purposes, and what that means. Residency is something you establish, not choose, so if you have moved to Maine, you can establish residency here.
Residency means different things for different public purposes. For example, there is no durational requirement in order to register to vote; but there is to run for the Legislature or obtain the financial benefits of in-state tuition, resident hunting or fishing licenses, which run the gamut from months to up to a year before you can consider yourself a resident for those purposes. Residency for voting purposes means that it is that place that you plan on regularly returning to, when temporarily absent, for an indefinite period of time.
Recent flyers that proclaim that if you register to vote in Maine, you must also immediately register your vehicle in Maine and immediately qualify for a Maine driver’s license appear to be targeting college students in order to discourage them from registering to vote and participating in their democratic form of self-governance.
If you establish residency in Maine, it is indeed the expectation that you obtain a Maine driver’s license and do other public business as a Maine resident. However, whether an individual obtains a Maine driver’s license or not has no impact on your ability to exercise your right to vote. There is no statutory connectivity between motor vehicle law and election law, and no one should be deterred from voting because of other aspects of residency found in other titles of Maine law. If you move to Maine but do not update your driver’s license, the real penalty is that if you get a traffic ticket and don’t pay the fine, you won’t get the notice of pending suspension from the court, which could lead to significant problems down the road for people.
You have the RIGHT to vote. Make yourself heard!


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