(NEWS CENTER Maine) — In what some all calling the most important midterms elections in recent history, high voter turnout is expected here in Maine. Voters in the Pine Tree State have continually produced one of the highest voter turnout percentages among eligible voters in the nation.
High turnout could be attributed to Maine's ease of accessibility to voters. Maine offers same-day registration (SDR), which allows qualifying residents to both register and cast their ballots on election day. Absentee voting has also seen a steady increase over the years. And Maine is one of just two states where felons never lose the right to vote, even while incarcerated.
“You have higher voter turnout, you have to credit the voters, you have a pretty civically engaged population, so that is always going to be critical,” said Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
According to the U.S. Election Project, Mainers’ high participation in elections spans nearly two decades. In the 2016 presidential election, 72.9 percent of Maine’s eligible voters cast ballots. Only Minnesota had a higher percentage at 74.7 percent.
In the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, Maine was first in the nation with, respectively, 55.9 percent and 58.7 percent of eligible voters participating, according to the U.S. Election Project.
In every major election from 2002 to 2016, Maine had a voter participation rate of 65.56 percent, more than 13 percent higher than the national average.
Unlike states with more densely populated areas that often have polling stations nearby, Mainers are setting high marks with notably rural populations that do not have as many polling stations. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Maine had the largest percentage of its population living in rural areas.
Maine voters are also putting up big numbers with fewer polling stations.
“You take Old Town where I live. Twenty-two years ago, we have four polling stations. We have one now. They had five or six polling stations in Bangor, and they have one now,” Dunlap said. The slight reduction has been due to town clerks struggling to recruit election workers.
Maine is somewhat of a rare commodity for the United States, a country which struggles to keep up with voting percentages seen in other countries. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center of countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States ranked 26th out of 32 countries for voter turnout percentage among the population that was legally allowed to vote.