More than 163,000 Maine voters have requested absentee ballots ahead of the July 14 election, a record for a primary after state and local officials urged it in hopes of protecting public health during the coronavirus pandemic by reducing crowding at the polls.
Maine has no-excuse-needed absentee voting, meaning anyone can request an absentee ballot for any reason. However, at least two-thirds of Maine voters usually vote in-person each election, so the experience of voting absentee is new for many.
Here is your guide to voting absentee, from requesting your ballot to making sure it is counted.
Absentee ballots can be requested online, by phone or at your town office — though you’ll have to request soon if you want to get it in the mail.
All registered voters can request an absentee ballot online for themselves or their family members by filling out a form on the secretary of state’s website. The information from that form is sent to your town office, where a local official matches information submitted to the voter rolls and then puts a ballot in the mail. People who cannot access the online form can also call their town offices and request an absentee ballot via phone.
If you request a ballot this way, it will arrive in the mail a few days later and you can fill it out and return it via mail. Voters who wait until the last minute to request an absentee ballot likely will not receive one in the mail on time.
If you wait until the last minute, but are concerned about going to the polls on Election Day for any reason, you can request an absentee ballot at your town office. You can fill out your ballot then or return it later — just make sure it is turned in by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
You can check on the status of your absentee ballot by contacting your town office or looking online.
If you are voting absentee, you should make sure your ballot arrives safely and is accepted to ensure your vote counts on Election Day. The vast majority of ballots are accepted, but data from the past few years show a few thousand are typically rejected each election.
Not every rejected absentee ballot means that someone’s vote did not count. For instance, a ballot will show up if a person mails in their ballot but then decides to vote in-person before their absentee ballot is received, said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. A missing signature, or a signature that doesn’t match what the town has on file, can also lead a ballot to be rejected, but the person may still be able to vote another way.
If you already put your absentee ballot in the mail but want to be certain that it arrived smoothly, the easiest thing to do is call your town office and verify that it was accepted, Dunlap said.
Alternatively, if you know your voter ID number, you can look up the state’s entire absentee voter file online, find the line that matches your information and check the column labeled “accepted or rejected.” Military and overseas voters can also check the status of their ballots using a form on the state’s website.
Once your absentee ballot is accepted, there is no way to change how you voted, something thousands of Democratic voters had to deal with earlier this year when several presidential primary candidates dropped out just days before the election.
But if you notice your absentee ballot was rejected — which can happen if you forget to sign the envelope, for example — you can contact your town office to request another ballot, or show up to the polls on Election Day and vote then.