Bangor to allow voting early

Five people cast their votes. The ballots are sealed and stored until Election Day. Bangor is one of a handful of Maine cities that is able to offer this choice to voters who are registered in the city.  (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE)

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Voters to take advantage of the in person absentee voting at the Bangor Civic Center Monday.  The votes can be cast through the week at the  (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
BDN
Five people cast their votes. The ballots are sealed and stored until Election Day. Bangor is one of a handful of Maine cities that is able to offer this choice to voters who are registered in the city. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE) CAPTION Voters to take advantage of the in person absentee voting at the Bangor Civic Center Monday. The votes can be cast through the week at the (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
Posted Oct. 22, 2009, at 8:44 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The city will participate in another early-voting pilot project beginning Monday, Oct. 26, through Monday, Nov. 2, at the Bangor Civic Center.

In addition to the seven referendum questions on the statewide ballot, residents will vote on three open City Council seats and two School Committee posts.

Bangor voters will also tackle two local referendum questions seeking amendments to the city charter.

One would reduce the number of signatures candidates for City Council would need to collect to get on the ballot from a minimum of 150 to 100.

The other would change the way City Council candidates are listed on the ballot. Instead of being listed alphabetically as they are now, the candidates would appear on the ballot in the order drawn by lot by the city clerk.

City Clerk Patti Dubois said this year’s election is likely to generate significantly more interest than the usual off-year election, simply because of the issues at stake, which include same-sex marriage and changes in tax policy.

“We’re anticipating about 50 percent turnout,” she said, which would equate to more than 11,000 Bangor voters.

In addition to Bangor, early voting will take place in Augusta, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gorham, Hallowell, Saco, Scarborough and Standish through the pilot project offered by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

“These nine communities who are operating early voting this year have really stepped up to the plate, crafting their own plans for carrying out this initiative,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said. “If it’s as well received in these locations as it was in an earlier and more limited pilot, early voting could become available as an option for municipalities statewide, as another way to accommodate the busy schedules of the voting public.”

The difference between early voting and in-person absentee voting is that with early voting voters cast their ballots exactly as they would on Election Day and the ballots are processed immediately. With in-person absentee voting, the ballots are sealed until Election Day.

Bangor was one of only three communities that participated in a similar early-voting pilot project during the November 2007 election, and Dubois said she would like to make the option a permanent fixture.

Dunlap said that’s exactly why the state decided to expand its pilot program.

“It’s a great way for us to get some feedback,” he said, “It’s the opinions of the voters that truly matter — not just in deciding the outcome of the elections, but in this case, in how those elections will be carried out, now and in the future.”

Earlier this year, Bangor city councilors voted to consolidate from four polling places to one. All voting now takes place at the Bangor Civic Center. Dubois said having one polling place allows the city to address any problems in a much more timely fashion and will modestly reduce Election Day costs, mostly by decreasing the number of polling workers needed.

Bangor’s early voting begins on Monday and will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 30. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the Civic Center will be open from 8 a.m. to noon. As with every other election, traditional absentee ballots are available on request through the Bangor city clerk’s office, by calling 992-4200.

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