AUGUSTA, Maine — About 78 percent of eligible Maine voters cast their ballots in the November election, increasing turnout that is normally among the nation’s highest in a year marked by the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 828,000 Mainers cast their ballots this fall, according to official results released by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office this week, up from 771,000 voters in 2016 and 724,000 in 2012. The increase in turnout came amid an increased use of absentee voting, which state and local officials had encouraged as a safe alternative during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than half of Maine voters cast their absentee ballots this year, either in-person early or by mail, up from one-third of voters in 2016. Still, more than 300,000 voters still voted in-person on Election Day, according to state data. In-person voting went mostly smoothly despite pandemic alterations, although voters in some places saw two-hour lines as clerks limited occupancy.
Maine’s high turnout mirrored national trends, with overall turnout expected to hit its highest level since the right to vote was extended to women a century ago. Estimates compiled by the U.S. Elections Project show an increase in turnout in every state compared to 2016.
While not all states have certified results yet, Maine is likely to come in second in the nation in voter turnout, trailing Minnesota, where turnout surpassed 79 percent, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Minnesota also had the highest voter turnout in 2016, with just shy of 75 percent of voters casting ballots, compared with 73 percent in Maine that year.
Turnout in Maine’s 1st Congressional District exceeded that of the 2nd District this year, with about 448,000 votes cast in the former compared to only 380,000 in the latter. While the two districts differ slightly in population — an issue that will be addressed through redistricting next year — the differential suggests that turnout in the 1st District was about 83 percent compared to only 73 percent in the 2nd District.