Bangor voters will have two referendums on their ballots next month that would alter the city charter’s timelines for city elections and candidate filings and make the city’s ballots more accessible to visually impaired residents.
The changes come after a lawsuit last year accused Maine of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Maine Human Rights Act because it had not offered visually impaired people people a safe and private way to vote during the pandemic. Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin and those from other municipalities, including Augusta and Portland, were defendants in that suit.
Question A would no longer require that the box where voters mark what candidate they are voting appear to the right of each candidate’s name; it would merely need to be adjacent. The change will allow the city to provide accessible absentee ballots, as well as allow the city’s ballot to reflect the layout of Maine’s state ballot.
Another provision in that question relates to the appearance of a ballot question on recalling a City Council or School Committee member. It would specify that the reason why residents are campaigning to recall that member appears after the recall question and the “Yes” or “No” boxes. That change will allow flexibility in the layout of the ballots, assisting the city as it creates accessible absentee ballots.
Question B would change a variety of deadlines related to elections to allow city officials to create accessible absentee ballots in a timely fashion.
Under current city policy, there would be no special election to fill a vacancy on the City Council or School Committee if that vacancy occurred within 90 days of the next council election. The vacant seat would instead be filled during the next regular November election. If approved, this question would change that timeframe to within 100 days to allow more time to create accessible ballots.
It would also change the period during which candidates can file nomination papers 70-90 days before an election instead of the present time frame of 60-80 days.
The third provision of the referendum would require a recall election to occur within 60-70 days after the City Council receives the city clerk’s certification of valid signatures. The previous policy was within 40 to 60 days of the council receiving that verification.
While the previous policy allowed the City Council to put that recall election on the same ballot as a general council election if that election was within 90 days, the new law would make that 100 days.