Orono resident Jeff Sanders leaves the town office after voting early by absentee ballot in this 2016 file photo. Credit: Nok-Noi Ricker / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 29 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s been a very interesting journey,” President Donald Trump said in a video from his hospital room before greeting supporters outside from his motorcade. “I learned a lot about COVID.”

What we’re watching today

Voters have begun to receive their absentee ballots while in-person voting begins in many towns today. If you are uncertain about where to vote, how to vote or where your local candidates stand, the Bangor Daily News has you covered with our 2020 voter guide, which rolled out this weekend.

Maine has officially set a record for absentee ballot requests already during the coronavirus-altered election, with more than 277,000 voters requesting absentee ballots as of Friday, amounting to 36 percent of voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election.

The first round of absentee ballots went out Friday, with more on the way and plenty of time to request them. If you are looking to cast your ballot absentee, instructions are available here. More on other types of voting is available here.

Two high-profile races will use ranked-choice voting, though one is facing yet another court challenge. Maine’s competitive U.S. Senate race, which features two independent candidates, will use the first-of-a-kind voting system. The presidential race is likely to do the same — although the Maine Republican Party has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the system for the presidential election, such a change seems unlikely at this point. 

More on how ranked-choice voting will be used and how to use it is available here.

We have gathered information on where candidates stand on top issues down to legislative races. You can use our page to get information about the candidates. We have been asking questions of Maine candidates that are informed by reader surveys. We compiled the stances of congressional candidates on top-tier issues and put the same set of questions to all 186 legislative candidates, getting a much higher response rate on the Senate side.

The guide is full of valuable information on candidates’ positions on how to manage Maine’s projected $1.4 billion shortfall and what they think of the Central Maine Power corridor. Only 10 of 59 Senate candidates who responded affirmatively supported the project, which figures to be a main issue in state politics for years to come with two potential related referendums in the works.

The Maine politics top 3

— ”Trump’s positive virus test unlikely to change Maine campaigns in last month of election,” Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews, and Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The pandemic has altered this year’s campaign, which led to in-person political events largely halting over the summer. Both parties and their candidates have resumed some normal activity as Maine has managed the virus with the second-lowest rate of per-capita cases among states. Campaigns reported few plans to change course after the president’s diagnosis.”

Maine’s senior senator tested negative for the virus this weekend. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is running a difficult race for a fifth term with House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, announced Sunday that she took a test as a precaution and it came back negative. Collins said earlier that she had no recent contact with three fellow Republican senators who tested positive. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who traveled to Waterville with Collins on Friday, said he got negative test results back on Saturday.

— “Longshot presidential hopefuls see Maine voting system as boon, but support will be hard-won,” Andrews, Shepherd and Emily Burnham, BDN: “A national survey last week from Monmouth University pegged just 2 percent of voters undecided in the bitter election in which [Trump] is running behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden. There are early signs that trend may hold in Maine, but third-party candidates are bullish on the potential effect of ranked-choice voting.” Here’s your soundtrack.

The three longshot candidates on Maine’s 2020 ballot have prioritized the state this year. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen was the first presidential candidate to visit during the general election cycle of the race on a Friday and Saturday swing between South Portland and Bangor. Green Howie Hawkins pitched interviews with reporters here last week and hopes to visit soon. The Alliance Party, which is running perennial candidate Rocky De La Fuente, filed a brief before Maine’s high court last week arguing to uphold the state’s ranked-choice voting system.

Trump’s diagnosis means Maine is less likely to see him before Election Day, so all eyes are on Biden. Many Republicans had been hoping to see a Trump rally somewhere in Maine in the closing days of the election, but it looks unlikely now. A Biden visit seems plausible as the 2nd Congressional District will be one of 15 battlegrounds where his campaign is running ads as of Tuesday, according to Medium Buying. The Democrat has polled narrowly ahead of the president this year in the district Trump won by 10 percentage points in 2016.

— “In a Maine county with surging virus cases, no surprise over Trump’s infection,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “At a time when Oxford County is now trying to blunt its own new flare up of the virus following an outbreak at the Rumford paper mill, the president’s diagnosis also didn’t appear as if it would change people’s impressions about how seriously to take the health threat.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...