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Voting is consolidated in some Maine cities

While it’s common throughout Maine to hold voting at public schools, some towns and cities are reconsidering mixing students with voters, especially during big elections.

Voters in Bangor cast ballots at the Cross Insurance Arena, a city-owned civic center.

“We no longer vote in schools,” City Clerk Lisa Goodwin said.

Bangor used to have eight voting places, then consolidated to four, then to one.

The city stopped holding voting in schools because of security concerns, Goodwin said. “In this day and age it’s not safe to have people coming and going.”

Some people didn’t like the change, and preferred to vote closer to where they lived, as opposed to going downtown, Goodwin said.

But holding elections in the one spot works well, she said. The city provides free busing for those who need transportation.

Consolidated at one spot means less work for election officials. “We only have to prepare for one space,” Goodwin said.

She said Bangor hasn’t seen a reduction in voter participation. More people vote absentee with each election, she said.

Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said for years Lewiston has talked about consolidating to one voting location, “but there isn’t a place.”

Lewiston does not own the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Another problem is that by November the Colisee has ice and would be too cold.

“There doesn’t seem to be a suitable spot large enough to hold thousands of people,” Montejo said. “You’re talking between 15,000 and 18,000 people, and a lot of vehicles, in a 13-hour period.”

In Scarborough, voters cast ballots at Scarborough High School.

This year there’s no school on Election Day, Superintendent Julie Kukenberg said.

“Because it’s a national election, our first priority is student safety,” she said. With a heavy voter turnout, there would be a disruption to the school day, and there wouldn’t be enough parking, Kukenberg said.

In Portland, voters cast ballots at 11 locations, including schools. One is Deering High School.

Concerned about a lack of parking, Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana is considering not holding school at Deering on Nov. 8, communications director Tess Nacelewicz said Monday.

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