AUGUSTA — In preparation for administering the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has issued updated guidance to ensure that all voters can safely participate in casting their ballots.
He joined Dr. Nirav Shah of the Maine CDC for a brief discussion Oct. 8 concerning safe voting during a pandemic and released safety suggestions later in the day.
As of Oct. 8, more than 300,000 Maine voters have requested to vote by absentee ballot in this election, which, according to a news release, is more than Maine has ever seen before at this point in the election season.
“With the influx of absentee ballot requests this year, we are issuing some additional guidance and offering new services for voters to ensure a smooth election,” said Secretary Dunlap. “We have also received questions about pandemic prevention measures at the polling places on Election Day, both for election officials and voters, and we are advising the municipal clerks on all the best practices for keeping everyone safe.”
GUIDANCE ON ABSENTEE VOTING
If you choose to vote in-person absentee by visiting your town office before Election Day, the State requirements for face coverings are in effect. If you do not have a face covering, the clerks may provide you with one, or provide you with an absentee ballot to vote at home.
Voters who have requested an absentee ballot by mail will not be issued a second ballot if they seek to vote in-person absentee ahead of Election Day, except in special circumstances.
The State does not print more than one ballot per voter, and an influx of double requests will result in ballot shortages.
Voters who change their minds about voting with the absentee ballot they have already received are advised to either bring in their blank ballot to vote it in the presence of the clerk, or complete their ballot from home and return it via mail or to the municipal clerk/dropbox directly. Read the full guidance document here.
If you plan to vote absentee by mail, please request your ballot as soon as possible, either directly from your municipal clerk or using the State’s Online Absentee Ballot Request service. Once you receive your ballot, please return it to your clerk as soon as you can to allow clerks to take advantage of early processing time to handle the unprecedented influx of absentee ballots this year.
If you are returning your ballot by mail, please allow at least seven days for mailing time. Otherwise, you can drop off your ballot to your municipal clerk as soon as you have completed voting.
Many towns and cities in Maine are also offering the option for voters to deposit their ballot in an official ballot dropbox on the city or town hall property. However you choose to return your ballot, remember: All ballots must be submitted to your municipal clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.
You can track your absentee ballot with the State’s new online tracking service to see when your application is received, when your ballot is sent out and when it is received by your clerk after you return it.
If there are any issues with your absentee ballot, such as if you forgot to sign your outer envelope, your clerk will contact you to correct the error so your ballot can be cast as intended.
For more information about absentee voting, visit the Absentee Voting in Maine page.
GUIDANCE ON IN-PERSON VOTING ON ELECTION DAY
Polling places for the General Election will be open on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 for in-person voting. Voters should allow additional time to complete the voting process, as wait times are expected to be longer than usual due to capacity limits, social distancing and sanitization measures in place at your polling site. You may have to wait outside due to the restrictions; please be sure you are prepared for the weather.
The Secretary of State’s office is providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for election workers, courtesy of a donation from L.L. Bean and Flowfold, and are requiring that all election workers wear face coverings and use tabletop barriers at the check-in tables.
Voting booths will be sanitized according to CDC guidelines, and pens will be single use.
Candidates and petitioners will be allowed to set up outside and will be required to wear cloth face coverings and maintain six-foot distance from voters.
All voters are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when visiting the polls to vote, but cannot be turned away from voting on Election Day for not wearing a face covering.
Per Maine law, voters are advised to refrain from wearing face coverings or other clothing/accessories that display the name of a candidate on the ballot. Election workers, poll watchers, petitioners and others stationed at the polling place will not be permitted to wear any apparel expressing support or opposition for any candidate or issue on the ballots. Read the full guidance document here.
Influencing or attempting to influence any voters decision about how to vote, or intimidating a voter, is prohibited by federal and state law, and any complaints about such activity should be directed to the election warden at the polling place. Read the full guidance document here.
Polling places may be consolidated or moved up to 10 days prior to Election Day, so voters are advised to check with the municipality or use the Voter Information Lookup Service for the latest updates prior to heading out to vote.