Down East sees record number of absentee ballots

Posted Nov. 03, 2008, at 7:50 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — They won’t be at the polls today, but absentee voters from Steuben to Danforth are still having their voices heard, and in record numbers.

Signs have been plastered all over town offices for months encouraging people to get out and vote. When voters turn up at the tribal office at Pleasant Point today, they will be greeted with a poster that has a drawing of three American Indians on it with the words “Native Vote, Every Vote Counts. Native Pride, Native Power, Native Vote. Your Voice Counts.” The National Congress of American Indians created the poster.

On the other end of the county, Town Clerk Sandra Clifton said she had received about 300 absentee ballots as of Monday — the largest number ever in her four years as town clerk. Before becoming town clerk, she was deputy town clerk, and said that this year she has seen “more [absentees] than we usually have vote, period.”

The town has about 1,700 voters.

Clifton also noted the increased number of new voters this year. She said she has registered what she called a “ton” of students from the University of Maine at Machias.

Robbinston Town Clerk Pamela Reynolds said there were about 448 registered voters in her community and as of Monday she had received 56 absentee ballots. She too agreed it was one of the biggest years for absentee ballots cast in her four years as town clerk. “Double the last election,” she said.

Town Clerk Francis Grey said that as of Monday, Danforth residents had turned in 50 absentee ballots. That town has approximately 460 registered voters.

At the other end of the county, Steuben Town Clerk Julie Ginn said she had received 141 absentee ballots. “Oh, my goodness,” Ginn said when asked whether it had been a record year. In past elections, she said, the town received around 30 absentee ballots. Steuben has approximately 900 registered voters.

The county’s largest community, Calais, also has received an inordinate number of absentee ballots — 500 as of Monday. Town Clerk Theresa Porter said there were about 2,450 registered voters in the city. “This is the largest number to date,” she said of the absentee ballots. “I received 25 just today.”

Eastport, the county’s only other city, also has been hopping with absentee ballots. “We are definitely running ahead of years past. I have at least 200 right now,” Town Clerk Helen Archer said Monday. She has been town clerk for about 15 years.

“The most I think I’ve ever had was a 140 or 150,” she said. “So it is up and we don’t ordinarily have that much.”

In Lubec, voters have turned in 217 absentee ballots, a record number for that community, according to Town Administrator Maureen Glidden. “This is the largest that our town clerk has ever done,” Glidden said.

Down the road from Lubec is East Machias, where 130 absentee ballots have been cast. “It is a record year for us,” Town Clerk Bunnie Wright said. She has been deputy clerk and now town clerk for the past 13 years. The town has around 884 voters.

Milbridge Town Clerk Brienne Fraser said she had received around 125 absentee ballots. Asked how that compared with elections of the past she said, “We usually have about 20.” The town has about 1,100 registered voters.

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