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A look at how Maine counts and secures its paper ballots

Thousands of Mainers asked for absentee ballots this year. How does each town keep track of making sure your vote is counted?

WESTBROOK, Maine — Election Day is creeping up in Maine, and voters have a wide range of choices. From the gubernatorial race to municipal ballot measures, there's a lot to keep up with.

As of Tuesday night, the Maine Department of the Secretary of State said 135,000 Mainers requested absentee ballots.

Inside Westbrook City Hall on Thursday, voters trickled in all morning to request an absentee ballot or vote in person.

But as more people vote early before election day, how can you be sure your vote is counted and secure?

The big point towns and cities in Maine want to state is that voting is done by paper ballots. This ensures that every vote can be traced back to a registered voter and, in some cases, be voted by hand.

"One of our favorite things is seeing someone voting absentee or in person," Angela Holmes, the Westbrook city clerk, said. "I check their names to make sure everything is filled out completely."

Holmes said that when people vote in person early or absentee, their votes are carefully sorted multiple times leading up to Election Day.

"We take significant efforts to make sure their votes are valid and protected," Holmes said. "We do the whole process over again. We confirm everything that leaves this building. We unseal them [at the Election Day polling location] and do the whole thing again."

Shenna Bellows, Maine's secretary of state, said it's nearly impossible to vote multiple times in different Maine municipalities without getting in trouble.

"If you did vote in two places, you would be caught," Bellows said.

The Maine Department of the Secretary of State said they field plenty of questions about absentee ballots due to disinformation online. Bellows added disinformation fuels aggression toward poll workers.

"When they believe lies about election administrators, that can lead to violence, and we weren't immune to that in Maine," Bellows said.

So even in a close race, you can be assured that your vote in person, absentee, or early in-person, will be tracked carefully and counted.

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