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Maine’s top election administrator, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, announced last week that state turnout in the Nov. 8 election was roughly 75 percent of eligible voters. This is a figure to be proud of. It is just under the 78 percent turnout Maine voters notched in 2020 during a presidential year, which was one of the highest percentages in the country at the time.
This year’s election, then, was yet another proud moment for Maine as a leader in democratic participation. Regardless of the election results, this level of participation is a win for Maine voters, a win for the local election workers who keep things running smoothly at the polls, a win for the state officials who oversee it all, and a win for Maine laws that balance voter access and election security.
“Maine saw extraordinary voter participation in this year’s election,” Bellows said in a Nov. 29 statement. “We should be proud of our high level of voter participation, as well as the excellent election administration by our local clerks, poll workers and state elections staff.”
Hopefully, this is a statement that Republicans, Democrats and unenrolled Mainers can all agree with, whether or not their preferred candidates and causes won at the polls this year.
First and foremost, kudos go to Maine voters for showing up and being part of the democratic process. While there was no presidential election this year — or a historically expensive and incredibly contentious U.S. Senate race — there were important decisions to be made about Maine’s next governor, representatives in the U.S. House, and control of the Maine Legislature.
Thankfully, with options like no-excuse absentee voting and same day registration, this state has made it fairly easy for people to exercise their voting rights. But those people still need to engage in the process for their voices to be heard.
So we can’t help but feel a little inspired by stories like the Augusta father who picked his 18-year-old son up from college so that he could cast his first vote in his home city. Steven Gingras drove his son, Thomas, from the University of Maine at Farmington to the Augusta Civic Center for this important moment.
“It was a good election for me to start with,” Thomas Gringas told the BDN. “It’s an important one, I think.”
This election, like all elections, was important. And these contests are made possible in part by the many local election workers who keep the polls running securely and efficiently. This work, often done by volunteers and central to our democratic process, has gotten particularly difficult lately amid election conspiracies and resulting threats and harassment. And yet, Maine people keep stepping up to make sure their fellow Mainers are able to vote.
“We owe our clerks gratitude and appreciation for their continued hard work in the face of these challenges,” Miles Pulsford of the League of Women Voters of Maine in a recent BDN column. Again, this is a sentiment we hope all Mainers share.
This spirit of appreciation should also extend to the state workers in the Secretary of State’s office who do the critical, often underappreciated work corralling all the many elements of election administration across Maine, from the initial printing of ballots to the recounts and ranked-choice tabulations after election day.
Maine’s impressive turnout numbers would not be possible without these dedicated workers and engaged citizens. We should be proud of them all.