MIDCOAST — With barely more than a week until Election Day 2020, more voters around the country have already cast ballots in this year’s presidential election than the number of people who voted early or absentee in the 2016 race, according to The Associated Press, in an Oct. 25 report.
That trend is mirrored in Maine’s Midcoast, where municipal staff members have bee scurrying for more than two weeks, first mailing out absentee ballots, and then collecting the daily returns of those ballots.
In Belfast, with its 5,800 registered voters, the returns of absentee ballots has been strong.
As of Oct. 26, 2,809 absentee ballots were requested and 2,488 have been returned to city hall. Of this, 1,824 were mailed, and 691 voted in person; 294 were issued to voters who took the ballot out of the office.
Rockport, with its list of approximately 3,000 registered voters, sent out 1,865 absentee ballots. Of those, and as of Oct. 26, 1,433 have been returned. Rockport has two municipal warrant articles on this ballot, relating to fireworks and solar farm ordinances.
Camden mailed 2,825 absentee ballots to citizens and has received back 2,444 as of Oct. 26. Camden has approximately 4,500 voters in total. It has one article on its municipal warrant, to do with a sidewalk easement and a condemnation order.
Lincolnville fielded more than 1,000 absentee requests, with 800 returned as of Oct. 26. Of those ballots, more than half were returned directly to the town office. Lincolnville has no local warrant articles on the ballot this fall.
Waldoboro, which is also voting on nine referendum questions, has received 1,476 requests to vote early with 97 in-person requests and 1,379 by mail as of Oct. 18. For voting by mail, 687 ballots had been returned as of Oct. 18.
A referendum question concerning a proposed sidewalk project in Union has attracted 753 early vote requests as of Oct. 19 with 62 individuals voting in-person, 598 ballots mailed to voters and 440 ballots returned by mail.
Union saw 252 electronic requests, 97 by telephone, nine from military or overseas, and 333 written requests.
Twenty-nine individuals have voted in-person as of Oct. 20 in Montville, which has four municipal questions on the ballot, while 223 requested a mailed absentee ballot and 115 have returned their ballot by mail.
The surge in early voting totals 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million the AP recorded as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.
Through Oct. 23, the State of Maine has recorded 445,488 requests for ballots to be mailed with 262,026 ballots logged by The Associated Press as returned.
Meanwhile, 81,471 early in-person ballots had been cast in the state, as of Oct. 23.
The percentage of votes cast in Maine compared to the 2016 presidential election is 132.9 percent, and 182.5 percent compared to the 2018 mid-term election.
Fueling, in part, the sharp increase in early voting turnout amid the pandemic lies with new or infrequent voters — 25 percent, in fact, of the total votes cast thus far — casting their ballots for this election, according to an AP analysis of data from the political data firm L2.
“The strong share of new and infrequent voters in the early vote is part of what leads analysts to predict more than 150 million total votes will be cast and possibly the highest turnout in a U.S. presidential election since 1908,” reports the AP.