Appeals Board rules to count contested votes of Colby community members on plastic bag ban

by Ethan Schuler

The Waterville Voter Registration Appeals Board ruled unanimously on Friday, May 3 to uphold the result of the plastic bag ban, effectively allowing 66 Colby College students, faculty, and staff the right to vote in Waterville.

The decision came after two days of student testimony before the Appeals Board in Waterville and a short public debate. This decision follows court cases that have been going on since the elections last November, in which the plastic bag ban in Waterville was narrowly passed and then challenged due to the votes of Colby community members.

The response to this final decision was positive from members of the College administration, who had officially supported the challenged voting rights of College community members. Colby President David Greene praised the decision in an e-mail sent out to Colby students, faculty and staff.

“This is an important outcome to protect the legal rights of voters in the city,” Greene stated in the e-mail. “It likely would not have happened without the commitment of scores of students and faculty who testified before the Appeals Board. I am impressed by their courage and their willingness to share their time and stories with the Appeals Board. Their testimonies demonstrated the deep and meaningful engagement of the Colby community in Waterville. We owe them our gratitude.”

Richard Urchida, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of the College, told the Echo, “The College is clearly pleased that the Waterville Voter Registration Appeals Board voted unanimously to protect the fundamental right to vote for students, faculty and staff who registered to vote in Waterville.”

Uchida added, “Colby is equally proud of the testimony its students and faculty delivered to the Board — whether it was to emphasize how valuable they each deemed their right to vote or the multitude of ways in which they have become integral parts of the fabric of the city.”

While many College community members seemed to support the plastic bag referendum, Uchida stressed that the College did not have an official stance on the measure. Rather, official opinions were solely related to College students, faculty, and staff ’s voting rights.

“The College took no position on the plastic bag referendum,” Uchida stated. “Instead, Colby focused on the threat to disenfranchise the votes of students, staff and faculty, and directed time, effort and resources to protect their fundamental right to vote. We hope this decision will foreclose future challenges to the rights of our students, faculty and staff to vote in Waterville.”