MAINE, USA — While the traditional, in-person voting options on Election Day are still available this election, many voters have turned to absentee voting as a way to vote safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Secretary of State's Office says requests for absentee ballots have already more than doubled the requests that were made in the 2016 General Election. According to recent data, more than 350,000 Mainers have requested an absentee ballot so far, and the Secretary of State expects many more before the October 29 deadline.
Any registered Maine voter may choose to vote absentee, either via mail or in-person at their town or city hall prior to Election Day.
Maine makes it easy to cast an absentee ballot—unlike some other states, you don't have to have a reason to vote absentee. While traditionally active military and those overseas rely on this option, many are taking advantage of the hassle-free way to vote because of the pandemic.
What is absentee voting?
Voting absentee allows you to vote without going to a polling place on Election Day.
What is the difference between "mail-in voting" and "absentee voting"?
Absentee ballots have to be requested by the voter to be mailed out. Mail-in ballots typically refer to states where the ballots are sent to all registered voters whether they requested one or not.
How do I request an absentee ballot in Maine?
First, you must be registered to vote in order to request an absentee ballot. Once you're registered, the request process is fairly simple. Click here to register.
Here's how you can request an absentee ballot:
- Through the Secretary of State's Office online request service
- Contact the municipal clerk in the town or city where you are registered to vote. Uniformed Service and Overseas voters will request an absentee ballot directly from the Secretary of State, Division of Elections.
- Request your absentee ballot by phone; it will be mailed to the address you provide to the clerk.
- Make a written request by completing an absentee ballot application
After I've requested my ballot, when will it come in the mail?
Municipal clerks receive the ballots 30 days prior to the election and will then begin to send ballots to voters who have requested them, beginning in early October.
Those with the highest percentage of requests will receive ballots first. All cities and towns should have ballots by Oct. 4. Municipalities will then send out the ballots on a rolling basis as requests come in.
RELATED: Dunlap expects unprecedented absentee turnout as Maine is first to use RCV in a presidential election
How do I make sure my ballot isn't rejected?
- Sign the return envelope on the voter signature line on the outer flap.
- Get it in the mail ASAP – absentee ballots must be received by your city or town clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
The Secretary of State's Office says they have "specifically advised clerks to make a concerted effort to cure any ballot defects that would result in the rejection of absentee ballots, even before it is marked as 'REJ' in the tracker service."
If there's enough time, your clerk's office should contact you to remedy the signature issue, but there's not always time, so make sure you sign.
What are the deadlines for absentee voting?
- Absentee ballot requests must be made by Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. Municipal clerks receive the ballots 30 days prior to the election and will then begin to send ballots to voters who have requested them, beginning in early October.
- Absentee ballots must be turned in to the municipal clerk by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3
- If mailing your absentee ballot, voters are encouraged to put it in the mail no later than 7 days before Election Day—if later, drop it off in person or via ballot dropbox
Can I vote by absentee ballot in-person?
Yes. You may vote absentee at the clerk's office as soon as absentee ballots are available. Absentee ballots are available at least 30 days before the election at the municipal clerk's office.
You don't need to complete an application if you vote in person at the clerk's office.
The deadline for absentee voting in the presence of the clerk, unless special circumstances exist, is the Friday before the election, Oct. 30.
What stops someone from voting by absentee and voting in-person on Election Day?
The Secretary of State's Office says when you vote by absentee ballot in the State of Maine, your municipal clerk will take receipt of the ballot and verify that it can be accepted. Once they do so, they will mark your name in the voter system as “AV” for “absentee voter.”
Thus, when they print out the incoming voter list just before Election Day, your name will already be “checked off” with the indicator marking that you have already voted via absentee ballot, and you will not be eligible to receive a ballot if you show up to vote in person.
On Election Day, some voters are still dropping off their absentee ballots and the town office is still receiving some by mail. Absentee ballots are processed in batches throughout the day and the list of those newly received absentee ballots is shared with each polling place for each batch, so if the absentee voter tries to vote in person, they will not be able to do so. (And conversely, if they vote in person before their ballot arrives that day, their absentee ballot will be rejected).
Can I track the status of my absentee ballot?
Yes. If you use the Online Absentee Ballot Request Service, you will receive a confirmation message that your application has been processed, and your municipal clerk will follow up with a confirmation email to let you know that your request has been received.
The Secretary of State's Office recently launched a tracking service so you can track your ballot at every step of the process.
Be sure to check out our 2020 Voter's Guide for more information about the upcoming election, including more deadlines and information about how to vote, what you're voting on, and how ranked-choice voting works.