BANGOR, Maine — The time is now — that's the message local and state officials are trying to send to Maine voters, as the countdown to the 2020 general election continues. November 3 is about a month and a half away, and preparation should be happening in advance, since this election is expected to be a busy one with popular races and challenges brought on by COVID-19.
The first step people should be taking is checking to make sure they are registered to vote. If it's your first time voting, or if you have changed your name or address since your last time voting, you must update your registration. This process can be done by downloading an application online to mail in to your city or town — or by visiting your city hall or town office in person.
The deadline for mail-in voter registration is October 19. If you don't do it before then, you will have to wait in line to register on election day.
In the city of Bangor, like in most Maine communities, there are three ways you can cast your ballot this election — voting absentee, voting early in-person, or voting in-person on election day.
To vote absentee, it's important that you request your ballot now, since there are a lot of requests for officials to process. Being proactive will help to make sure your ballot gets processed, even if there are issues. The ballots requested early will be the first ones sent out, as soon as envelopes are stuffed — likely by October 4 or 5.
You can request an absentee ballot online if you are already registered. You can also call your city or town clerk to submit a written application. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, October 29 — but you should do it sooner. If you don't get a ballot by mid-October and you requested one in advance, officials say you should check in with your city hall or town office. As soon as you receive your ballot in the mail, you should fill it out and mail it back! You can also drop it off in-person at a drop-box, if your city or town has one.
Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin says absentee voters voting by mail shouldn't be worried about their ballot being processed, as long as they return it with the envelope signed. She says a lot of Mainers are receiving applications in the mail for absentee ballots that are not being sent by town and cities and have been confused. Those applications are being sent to voters by political parties and other groups. If you have already requested a ballot, you do not need to fill out these forms.
In Bangor, early in-person voting begins on October 5, or as soon as the city receives and verifies the state ballots. Voting will take place that week at city hall during regular business hours. From October 13 to 30, procedures will be moved to the Cross Insurance Center, and city hall will be extending its hours from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For election day in Bangor, Goodwin says in-person voting will be separated into two different areas. The arena floor will be for people whose last names begin with A-L; the ballroom area will be for M-Z. Only 50 people (including workers) will be allowed in the voting area at a time because of social distancing guidelines.
Goodwin says this entire year has been busy for the city — and work preparing for this election isn't slowing down any time soon.
"We’re extremely busy," Goodwin told NEWS CENTER Maine. "We’ve been busy since the online portal opened up. We’ve done about 5,400 applications already, so those are in the queue ready to be mailed, as soon as we get the ballots in. When we had the primary in July, we wrapped up — and the very next week we were doing the November election."
To learn more about voting in Maine, click here.