No matter how people decide to vote this election, they should make sure to do it just once.
Here in Maine, it’s a class C crime for any person who, “Having once voted, whether within or outside this state, again votes at the same election.” The same is true for anyone who “attempts” to vote again in the same election.
During an interview in North Carolina, President Donald Trump recently encouraged voters to vote once by mail and then follow-up by trying to vote again in person to test the system. We hope Mainers have the good sense not to do that. They would potentially be committing a crime.
Trump and the White House later tried to defend those comments — insisting he was encouraging people to make sure their votes are counted, not to break the law. But this is another fact-challenged edition of Trump’s relentless and reckless attack on voting by mail.
Maine voters can check whether their absentee ballot was received and accepted by contacting their town or city office, or by using their voter ID number and searching the state’s online absentee voter file. They don’t have to risk committing a crime or overwhelming clerks on Election Day to make sure their vote is counted.
It’s almost as if the “law and order” president doesn’t value either existing election laws or order in our elections.
For those who want to vote lawfully and orderly in Maine, do it just once. If people are comfortable voting in person on Election Day, they should do so. They should follow the social distancing signage at their polling places, and wear a face covering.
If people are more comfortable voting absentee by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic, they should request an absentee ballot now and fill it out and return it as soon as they can to make sure their ballot arrives by Election Day on Nov. 3 amid concerns about postal service delays. The Postal Service has already indicated that people in Maine and 45 other states should mail back their ballots at least 15 days before Election Day.
Any registered Maine voter can request an absentee ballot starting three months before the election and ending three business days before the election. This year, that deadline is Thursday, Oct. 29. They can make the application request through their town or city clerk’s office, or online through the Secretary of State’s office.
People can also vote absentee in-person at their clerk’s office once ballots are made available — which happens at least 30 days before an election — through Friday, Oct. 30. Or they can hand deliver their absentee ballots back to their clerk’s office. Some municipalities, like Bangor, have installed secure drop boxes where people can return their ballots without relying on the mail or interacting with someone face-to-face during the pandemic. Whether mailed or returned in person, absentee ballots must be received by the municipal clerk by 8 p.m. on election day.
There’s plenty of room for debate about which candidates to vote for, and there are plenty of ways to vote. But there is no debate about the correct number of ballots each eligible person should cast in an election: One. Not two. Not zero. One.
Election law can be complicated and varied state by state, but this aspect of it shouldn’t be. Maine voters can resist attempts to create chaos and confusion by knowing and following the law, and planning out now how they are going to vote in the November election.
There are several ways for Maine people to vote safely and legally, and there is no one right method for everyone. Regardless of how you vote, do it once and only once.