Portland vital records clerk Anne Clark answers questions on the first day of absentee voting at City Hall on Oct. 5, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s high court left key voting laws in place for the Nov. 3 election in a Friday ruling, finding that they are not too burdensome during the coronavirus pandemic after a lawsuit from an advocacy group for seniors sought major changes.

The Alliance for Retired Americans filed a June lawsuit looking to force the state to count absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day, pay for stamps for mailed ballots and other changes meant to make voting more accessible during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that Maine’s voting system forced many seniors to risk their health to vote. Ballots currently need to be received by municipal clerks on Election Day to be counted.

The group appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after a lower-court judge turned it back in late September, saying the changes risked “severe disruption” of the election. A panel of four high court justices maintained that stance Friday, saying voters will be afforded “fundamental fairness.”

The court said the burden placed on voters — such as paying for postage and turning in their ballots to clerks by Election Day — was small. They also found the state had taken sufficient efforts to make voting safer and deliver results quickly by instituting social distancing requirements and giving election officials more time to process absentee ballots.

Only one justice, Joseph Jabar, dissented, saying the state’s efforts could not counteract any potential delivery issues with the U.S. Postal Service and that voters were in an “untenable position” to try and vote safely in a pandemic.

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