AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine will hold an election on Tuesday that has been complicated and delayed a month due to a coronavirus pandemic that has prompted a record number of requests for absentee ballots ahead of the mid-year primary.
Nearly 65 percent of the roughly 199,000 Maine voters who were issued absentee ballots returned them to their cities or towns as of Friday afternoon, according to state data. But polling places will still be open across the state with many more waiting to vote in person.
Maine will choose nominees in a Democratic U.S. Senate primary, a Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District and legislative primaries on Tuesday, while two statewide bond questions and any local school budget referendums will be open to voters of all affiliations.
If you are not among those who have turned ballots in, here are three main things you need to know about voting on Tuesday, absentee or in person. If you have questions, consult the secretary of state’s office, your municipal clerk or email email@example.com.
Absentee ballots are still available, but you must return them in person.
Registered voters typically lose the ability to request an absentee ballot days before the election, but Gov. Janet Mills lifted that deadline in an April order that loosened voting rules due to the virus. Voters can now request absentee ballots up to and on Election Day, though last week was the practical deadline to request a ballot by mail and send it back.
If you want an absentee ballot now, you should go to your municipal office, request one and fill it out as soon as possible. All ballots will be counted as long as they are returned to the city or town by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Maine does not require voters to cite a reason for voting absentee.
Many cities and towns have consolidated polling places, so check yours before you go to vote.
If you are waiting to vote in person, note that your regular polling place may have changed. Several cities and towns that typically have several polling places have reduced them to better adhere to social distancing measures, including Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta. Others, including Portland, elected not to consolidate due to concerns about access.
The state offers a handy online tool where you can enter your address to see your polling place. For more information, consult your municipal website or call the local clerk’s office.
Maine has same-day registration and allows unenrolled voters to join parties on Election Day.
Maine has a tradition of liberal voting rules and is one of 21 states with same-day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Anyone not registered to vote in their city or town can show up to a polling place, show identification and proof of residency, register and vote. You do not need identification to vote, only to register.
Those new voters or unenrolled voters can join a party on Election Day in order to vote in a primary they are interested in. The deadline has passed for voters to switch parties in order to vote in a primary, however.