The Cross Insurance Center reversed a decision to screen Bangor voters by sending them through working metal detectors and searching their bags after state and local officials raised concerns those measures could have a chilling effect on turnout.
Voters will still have to walk through a metal detector when they go to the Cross Insurance Center on Tuesday, but the machines will not be turned on, according to Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin. Center staff had also planned to check voters’ bags, but on Friday, it nixed that security measure after the Maine Secretary of State’s office advised against it.
Earlier in the week, city officials expressed concern about the use of metal detectors and asked center staff to stop using them during elections.
“There was some confusion around it,” Goodwin said. “We had some concerns. They’ve been addressed, and the voters — the only thing that’ll be different for them is that they’re going to walk through a detector that’s not on.”
Maine law prohibits activities at election places that may “influence voters or interfere with their free passage.”
If the Bangor venue had implemented the screenings on Election Day, it would have been the only Maine polling place that’s on-record as sending voters through active metal detectors, according to Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. Both the metal detectors and the bag inspections could have deterred voters, he said.
“If you have people standing in a line that’s 100 yards long, somebody could drive up and say, ‘Maybe next year,’ or ‘I don’t want to go through a metal detector,’” Dunlap said. The bag checks, he said, “could have a real chilling effect on people who might not have a lot of time on their hands or might not like being searched or whatever.”
The metal detector screening and bag checks would have been part of a new security policy that the venue has just adopted for all its events.
Goodwin also said that members of the Bangor Police Department will still be at the polling place on Election Day, as they regularly are.
On Monday night, several Bangor City Councilors raised concerned with the use of metal detectors during elections, according to Councilor Laura Supica. Supica said that the measures could have deterred voters who usually carry items such as multi-tools or who don’t have cars in which to store their belongings. Supica also said the city should re-assess whether it makes sense to hold elections in a consolidated location such as the Cross Insurance Center.
Bangor voters approved the construction of the $65 million arena, and the city now has a contract with the company Spectra Venue Management to run the facility. Anthony Vail, who recently was hired as the general manager of the Cross Insurance Center, did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier in the week, Vail said that Cross Insurance Center was already planning to suspend one of its security protocols — a limit on the size of bag that guests can bring inside the venue — on Election Day.