Maine Democrats are outpacing Republicans in early absentee ballot requests, running out to nearly a five-to-one advantage ahead of high-profile gubernatorial and congressional races.
Democrats made up 63 percent of just over 61,000 Mainers who requested an absentee ballot by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, according to newly released data from the Maine secretary of state’s office. Republicans made up 13 percent and unenrolled voters made up 22 percent.
The party currently in control of both Augusta and Washington has always dominated early absentee ballot requests. Republican voters are more likely to vote in person. The early share of requests has never been a sure sign of electoral momentum, but Maine Democrats are dominating them more this year than they have in each of the past four elections.
Total absentee ballot requests in Maine this year are trending toward the second-highest sum of all time after the 2020 presidential election marked by a switch to the method during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Midterm elections have lower turnout. The 2018 election saw less than 17,000 requests five weeks out from Election Day.
The Democratic share of the early absentee votes exceeded the 56 percent they saw in the 2020 election split by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and President Joe Biden, a Democrat. Counterintuitively, the majority party saw their early request share decline by five percentage points from the Republican wave year of 2014 to the Democratic year of 2018.
These early voting figures indicate both a continued shift toward absentee voting. They could reflect excitement from Democrats to cast ballots early in an election year that looked bad for them in a spring marked by high costs but has shifted after backlash to a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to remove a constitutional right to abortion.
Abortion policy has played a role in the race between Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Sam Hunkler, as well as down the ticket. In other states, women surged to sign up to vote after the Supreme Court decision, a New York Times analysis found. Maine does not release absentee voting data by gender.
Democrats make up 36 percent of the 1.1 million registered voters in Maine. Republicans make up 28 percent and Greens are 4 percent, while 32 percent are independents not registered with a party, according to June data from the secretary of state’s office.