A dog sits among people voting
Little Sis, a service dog, waits for her owner Michael Wedge to cast his vote at the Skehan Recreation Center in Hampden on Nov. 2, 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Maine voters have the chance to cast their ballots in local primaries across the state next week, including in districts that could help decide control of the Maine House and Senate this fall.

The state’s highest profile candidates are running unopposed in party primaries on June 14 ahead of hot November matchups. Voters who are not registered in a major party can still cast ballots in most of the state with a special election for a Maine Senate seat in Hancock County and nonpartisan school board or referendum elections in many towns.

Here is what to know about the upcoming election and how you can vote.

Hancock County chooses a new state senator

All voters — including unenrolled voters — can cast a ballot in the special election in Maine Senate District 7, where former Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, faces Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, and Green candidate Ben Meiklejohn of Seal Harbor. The election, which is to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, takes place under a pre-redistricting version of District 7, spanning from Amherst and Aurora to Brooksville and Deer Isle.

Both Grohoski and Langley are also on primary ballots for the November election in towns that are part of the post-redistricting version of District 7, which swaps nearly a dozen small towns in eastern Hancock County for ones on the Blue Hill peninsula. Only voters registered with either party can vote in the party primaries, which are uncontested.

Party primaries

Every registered Republican or Democrat will have the opportunity to vote in the parties’ respective gubernatorial primaries, although Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage are both running unopposed and there are no official write-in candidates.

Republicans in the 2nd Congressional District also have the opportunity to vote in the contested primary as former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Caratunk selectman Liz Caruso seek the chance to challenge Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat. Democrats in the 2nd District can also cast their ballots for Golden, who is unopposed in the primary. In the 1st District, both Rep. Chellie Pingree and Republican challenger Ed Thelander are running unopposed.

There are also more than two dozen party primaries for Maine Senate and House districts across the state, along with a Democratic primary for district attorney in Cumberland County that has attracted serious outside spending and a Republican district attorney primary in Hancock County.

Notable legislative races include Maine Senate District 8, which includes Orono, Old Town and nearly two dozen other towns north of Bangor in Penobscot County. Democrats Abe Furth and Mike Tipping are facing off in a primary, as are Republicans Grace Tibbetts and Eric Rojo.

Two Republican legislative primaries could come down to ranked-choice voting: in House District 79, which includes Paris, Sumner, West Paris and Woodstock, Rep. John Andrews of Paris faces challenges from Dannie Abbott and Ryan Ricci. The race for a Waterville-area Senate District 16 also features three candidates: Rep. Mike Perkins of Oakland along with Mark Andre and Kevin Kitchin.

Unenrolled voters can enroll in a party on Election Day to vote in a primary if they want. But Maine’s open primaries law, which will allow unenrolled voters to vote in either party’s primary without registering with the party, does not go into effect until 2024. Voters already registered with a party cannot switch their registration on Election Day.

Local elections

Voters in Maine’s largest cities have the chance to vote in local elections regardless of party affiliation. Bangor voters can vote in a special election for City Council, where five candidates are facing off to fill the seat vacated by the late Sarah Dubay.

In Portland, there is a special municipal election to fill two at-large school board seats, along with a question on the school budget. School budget questions are also on tap for all voters in municipalities such as Auburn and Orono.

Other towns with referendum elections include in Readfield in Kennebec County, where voters have the chance to decide on a $5 million bond for the town to purchase its own broadband through Axiom and a $500,000 bond for a sports complex.

How to vote

Voters have until Thursday to request an absentee ballot from the state. Some towns are also offering in-person absentee voting this week. Voters who request an absentee ballot must return it to the town hall or a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day for their vote to be counted.

Residents can also go to the polls on Election Day, where polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in most of the state. Some larger municipalities open for voting as early as 6 a.m., while those with fewer than 500 people are permitted to open as late as 10 a.m. Check with your town office to determine what time the polls open in your town.