Election workers process absentee ballots for the primary elections in Portland City Hall on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 in Portland, Maine. Credit: David Sharp / AP

More than 20,000 Maine residents requested absentee ballots online within about 24 hours of the state’s request form going live, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday morning.

The total is a massive sum, but only represents a small share of Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s projection that 60 percent of Maine voters may vote absentee for the general election. A record 185,000 voters returned absentee ballots for the July 14 primary following urging by state and local officials to vote absentee in order to reduce crowding at the polls and 60 percent of November 2016 turnout would mean 463,000 early ballots.

But the general election has been complicated by concerns about the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to return ballots on time. Cost-cutting measures imposed by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have resulted in mail delays in Maine and across the nation. In late July, the agency warned Maine that voters who voted absentee should put their ballots in the mail 15 days before Election Day to ensure they are returned on time.

Under Maine law, absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on election night to be counted. The state is contemplating alternative return methods, including secure drop boxes, to allow voters to safely return ballots without relying on the postal service.

Voters can also return ballots directly to their town offices, but cannot ask another person to return their ballots for them unless they designated that person at the time they requested their ballot. Absentee ballots will be sent to voters in early October.

The November election includes the presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden as well as competitive congressional races and local elections. The ballot will not feature any referendum questions after Maine Republicans failed to gather enough signatures for a people’s veto on a ranked-choice voting law and Maine’s highest court ruled that a referendum on the CMP corridor was unconstitutional.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story used too high of a turnout estimate for the 2020 election. Based on 2016 turnout, the secretary of state’s estimated share of absentee voters would equal roughly 463,000 early ballots.