Voters file through the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor to cast their votes on Tuesday morning. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Other than paper jams and short-lived issues with power at two polling places in Maine, the electronic machines used to count ballots are working as they should, the state’s top election official said.

Maine uses paper ballots that are filled out by hand and then fed into ballot scanning machines.

“Sometimes there is a jam when a person puts in their ballot,” Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said Tuesday afternoon. “But that’s the reason we have technicians onsite so anyone having trouble submitting their ballot can have the issue resolved quickly.”

In Madawaska Tuesday morning the power was flickering on and off, Bellows said. Officials there decided to power down the voting machines until electricity was back to full strength.

In cases like that, Bellows said, voters feed their paper ballots into a special slot in the machine where they are held until after polls close. Then election officials will remove the ballots and feed them into the machine in plain view.


Power outages near, but not at, the Pownal polling station prompted election officials to take similar measures. In both cases, the machines were down for less than an hour, Bellows said, adding that using paper ballots adds an additional layer of security.

“When we talk about voting machines in Maine, we are talking about a modern-day abacus,” Bellow said. “It is a tabulator that is not connected to the internet, and its sole job is to count.”

There are also representatives from both political parties on hand to observe the tabulation process after the polls close and volunteers from both parties working at the polling stations.

“These provide checks and balances,” Bellows said. “Nothing is done behind closed doors [and] this is an open and transparent process.”

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.