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Gov. Janet Mills formally moved Maine’s June 9 primaries to July 14 and pushed back all election-related deadlines by a month late Friday. Her executive order delaying voting followed a statement earlier this week that it was “not going to be possible” to hold the elections in early June while maintaining required social distancing measures.
The order gives non-party candidates for statewide elections an extra month to collect the signatures they need to qualify for the November ballot. The deadline for parties to withdraw and replace candidates has also changed, as has the qualifying date for candidates to qualify for state Clean Election Act funding to run their campaigns.
The three-month deadline for requesting an absentee ballot will be waived, meaning those who have already requested a ballot will not have to do so again. The order will also allow voters to request an absentee ballot up to and on Election Day.
The governor was given the authority to change the election date and voting arrangements, including an expansion of absentee voting, under a coronavirus response bill the Legislature passed last month.
The governor said earlier in the week that the state would take steps to “minimize in-person contact” while allowing absentee voting “to the highest level possible.” Later, Mills noted that Maine could use federal stimulus money earmarked for voting to buy plexiglass shields for some polling places.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said earlier in the week that he would prefer an all-absentee election, which would eliminate the need for staffed polling places and would involve mailing ballot requests to all voters.
Several advocacy groups earlier this week called on the state to allow online voter registration and make it easier for residents to vote absentee due to the coronavirus. Maine would join at least 15 states that have delayed primaries because of the virus, according to The New York Times.
Candidates affected by the date change — including those in competitive races for the 2nd Congressional District and the U.S. Senate — were supportive or indifferent to the news earlier in the week, saying it would not affect their campaigns.
Watch: Maine CDC press conference, April 10