Maine residents will have more time to mail in voter registration applications than they normally would in advance of Maine’s July 14 primary election following an executive order the governor issued this week.
Gov. Janet Mills’ order, dated Wednesday, also lets election clerks set up secure drop boxes for absentee ballots, so voters can submit them more easily, and gives towns and cities more time to change and consolidate polling locations in advance of an Election Day for which many are doubting they’ll be able to recruit enough poll workers.
[iframe url=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/wTcUTMTRI3E” width=”560″ height=”315″]
The changes, aimed at making it easier for voters to vote absentee and simplifying towns’ and cities’ roles in administering the election, come just over a month before an election that will be held in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Municipal clerks have said they’re figuring out what they need to do to keep polling places safe and sanitary to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, and some are reaching out to voters proactively to notify them about absentee ballots in hopes of reducing the number of voters who show up in person. Some have said they’re having trouble recruiting poll workers who are willing to staff polling places during a pandemic.
Under Mills’ order, Maine residents can mail voter registration cards to their local town offices until a week before the election, July 7. Normally, those registration applications are due 21 days before an election. Voters can still register in person on Election Day.
In addition to allowing towns and cities more flexibility on changing polling places, the order suspends a requirement that municipal clerks visit licensed long-term care facilities to help residents vote absentee.
[iframe url=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/OH4VuHk0mk0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]
Wednesday’s order follows an April order from the governor that gave voters more time to request absentee ballots. Voters can request those ballots in person up to and throughout Election Day. But the state still wants those who request ballots online or through the mail to allow enough advance time for mailing.
In April, Mills postponed the state’s June primary election to July 14 over concerns about the safety of holding an election during a virus outbreak.
While the order pushing back the election allowed voters more time to request absentee ballots, the state has stopped short of setting up an all-absentee election with ballots mailed to every registered voter.
Election officials contemplated that idea, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said last month, but abandoned it over concerns that the town offices responsible for processing absentee ballots could be shut down. All-absentee elections are also costlier, he said.
On July 14, Democratic voters will choose their nominee to challenge U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ in her re-election bid, while Republican voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will choose their nominee to face incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. There are also more than three dozen contested primaries for state and county-level offices and two bond questions.