COVID-19-related election changes could become permanent in Maine

Officials are considering whether some of the COVID-19-related changes made to voting in Maine should be made permanent.Maine had record voter turnout, with three-quarters of eligible voters casting a ballot. Because of the pandemic, about 63% of votes were cast absentee.One of the big reasons election officials across Maine were able to report results so quickly was the early processing of absentee ballots.Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order that allowed clerks to begin processing absentee ballots a week before the election, instead of the typical four days.”That was a big help, and I hope it sticks,” Biddeford City Clerk Carmen Morris said.Morris said that gave them more time to call voters who forgot to sign their envelope.”It’s advantageous to us. Then we don’t feel like we’re cramming so much stuff in like two or three days,” Morris said.So few absentee ballots in Biddeford were rejected that they fit in a lock box the size of a shoe box. Fewer than 1% of absentee ballots were rejected statewide.Election officials said few Mainers missed the deadline to return their ballots because dozens of towns set up drop boxes.Secretary of State Matt Dunlap used federal coronavirus aid funds to pay for 80% of the cost for the drop boxes.”I suspect we’re going to see drop boxes around into the future, simply because people like it,” Dunlap said.Dunlap believes, to become permanent, the changes for the November election need to be enshrined into law.Biddeford Rep. Ryan Fecteau said he would include keeping the secretary of state’s online absentee ballot tracker.”Clearly, there’s ways in which we can make our elections more accessible to people and also give people the confidence that their vote counted,” Fecteau said.With early processing, Portland and Lewiston ran through all the absentee ballots received by the Sunday before Election Day.”Folks are, I know, upset or angry with what they’re seeing across the country, with Pennsylvania and Arizona and other states, but the reality is their states didn’t allow them to process ballots sooner,” Fecteau said.Fecteau is one of two Democrats running for speaker of the House. His rival, Seth Berry, also supports making the election changes permanent.Senate President Troy Jackson said, “these ideas are definitely work exploring.”

Officials are considering whether some of the COVID-19-related changes made to voting in Maine should be made permanent.

Maine had record voter turnout, with three-quarters of eligible voters casting a ballot. Because of the pandemic, about 63% of votes were cast absentee.

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One of the big reasons election officials across Maine were able to report results so quickly was the early processing of absentee ballots.

Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order that allowed clerks to begin processing absentee ballots a week before the election, instead of the typical four days.

“That was a big help, and I hope it sticks,” Biddeford City Clerk Carmen Morris said.

Morris said that gave them more time to call voters who forgot to sign their envelope.

“It’s advantageous to us. Then we don’t feel like we’re cramming so much stuff in like two or three days,” Morris said.

So few absentee ballots in Biddeford were rejected that they fit in a lock box the size of a shoe box. Fewer than 1% of absentee ballots were rejected statewide.

Election officials said few Mainers missed the deadline to return their ballots because dozens of towns set up drop boxes.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap used federal coronavirus aid funds to pay for 80% of the cost for the drop boxes.

“I suspect we’re going to see drop boxes around into the future, simply because people like it,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap believes, to become permanent, the changes for the November election need to be enshrined into law.

Biddeford Rep. Ryan Fecteau said he would include keeping the secretary of state’s online absentee ballot tracker.

“Clearly, there’s ways in which we can make our elections more accessible to people and also give people the confidence that their vote counted,” Fecteau said.

With early processing, Portland and Lewiston ran through all the absentee ballots received by the Sunday before Election Day.

“Folks are, I know, upset or angry with what they’re seeing across the country, with Pennsylvania and Arizona and other states, but the reality is their states didn’t allow them to process ballots sooner,” Fecteau said.

Fecteau is one of two Democrats running for speaker of the House. His rival, Seth Berry, also supports making the election changes permanent.

Senate President Troy Jackson said, “these ideas are definitely work exploring.”