BANGOR, Maine — Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap finished his Election Day tour across in Maine by stopping in Bangor early Tuesday evening, where he stuck firm to his prediction that statewide turnout would hover on either side of 20 percent.
In 2002, the last primary election that featured an open gubernatorial seat, Dunlap said turnout was 18.5 percent.
Asked what was bringing people to the polls, Dunlap said it was a mix between wide-open gubernatorial primaries for both Democrats and Republicans and Question 1, the people’s veto referendum that deals with tax reform.
Dunlap predicted that registered Democrats and Republicans probably would turn out in relatively equal numbers. Unenrolled voters, he said, might not have the same incentive to vote as party diehards.
Dunlap’s 20 percent prediction is on the high side for an off-year election, but far below the 70 percent in a typical presidential election.
Michael Gleason, Bangor’s deputy registrar of voters, said late Tuesday that turnout at the Bangor Civic Center was steady all day, and that didn’t include the more than 1,600 absentee ballots cast before Tuesday.
“We seem to have had a lot of unenrolled voters turn out to register with a party so that they could vote for a governor candidate,” he said.
Erin Dean, 19, a first-time voter in Bangor, did not enroll with a political party on Election Day and voted solely on Question 1.
Twin sisters Chelsea and Megan Pratt, both 18 and first-time voters from Bangor, registered as Republicans to cast votes for gubernatorial candidate Steve Abbott.
Dunlap said turnout has been stronger than expected in some places, including Harpswell and Waldoboro, where extra ballots were requested.
Primary voting in Belfast was steady all day, according to the women busily counting absentee ballots Tuesday night just after the polls closed.
In Aroostook County, cities and towns were seeing higher than expected voter turnout throughout the day, according to officials at the polling places.
In Fort Kent, Town Manager Don Guimond said late Tuesday afternoon that turnout was “pretty steady.”
In Presque Isle, City Clerk Nancy Nichols said turnout was “higher than anticipated.”
“We have had a nice steady stream throughout the day,” she said. “I had more than 200 absentee ballots submitted before Election Day. I think I had about 220 absentee ballots, which is high for a primary in Presque Isle. I would say we have seen between 350 and 400 voters so far.”
Clerks in Littleton, Madawaska and Houlton also reported steady turnout.
Dunlap said local issues such as legislative primaries also were bringing people to the polls in some towns.
Voters in Aroostook County also were casting ballots on school budgets and deciding whom to advance to the November ballot in the race for the next Aroostook County district attorney.
BDN writers Eric Russell and Jen Lynds and The Associated Press contributed to this report.