Maine Democrats had requested more than twice as many absentee ballots as Republicans by the end of September, according to figures from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Registered Democrats accounted for 11,152 of the 23,178 absentee ballot requests – nearly 50 percent – submitted with clerks’ offices statewide as of Sept. 29, according to the latest tally. Registered Republicans, by comparison, had submitted 4,866 absentee ballot requests, while unenrolled voters had requested 6,440 ballots. Green Independent and registered Libertarians – a new official party in Maine – accounted for 720 ballot requests.

Early voting has grown in popularity in Maine and across the country, driven in part by the convenience for voters and organized efforts by campaigns or political parties to lock in votes before Election Day. In 2012, more than 190,000 Maine voters used absentee ballots to vote by mail or in person before Election Day, representing roughly 26 percent of all votes cast during that presidential election.

City clerks in southern and central Maine said Friday they were seeing steady demand for absentee ballots, and they expect those numbers to rise in the coming weeks.

In Maine, voters can vote absentee for any reason and can begin requesting ballots three months before Election Day, although clerks’ offices do not physically receive the ballots until one month before the election.

The Maine Democratic Party recently began spreading the word to its supporters about absentee ballots through email blasts as well as in this week’s Democratic radio address. Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said the party regards absentee voting as “a key measure of enthusiasm” for the upcoming campaign.


“We’re thrilled,” Bartlett said. “There is clearly a lot of enthusiasm among Democrats to make sure they weigh in on this race as early as possible. And at this point, this is really organic” for the party.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage acknowledged that Maine Democrats have been more likely to vote by absentee ballot in the past, but said that Republicans are starting to vote early in growing numbers.

“Our program is about to launch,” Savage said of the Republican public push on absentee ballots. “In 2014, we effectively closed the gap and I think we are going to be pretty competitive this year.”

Nationwide, early voting appears to be surging in this election despite strong voter dissatisfaction with the two leading presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. The Associated Press projected that, based on preliminary data, roughly 40 percent of all votes nationwide this year could be cast before Election Day.

The AP also suggested that early indications in critical states such as North Carolina and Florida suggest that Clinton could be benefiting from the heightened interest in early voting.

In Maine, several clerks reported steady demand for absentee ballots so far this year.


“For a presidential election, this is pretty much spot-on for what we’d expect to have,” said Lisa Goodwin, city clerk in Bangor, whose office expected to crest 1,100 total absentee ballot requests by the end of Friday. Goodwin predicted that her office would hand out about 7,000 absentee ballots before the election.

In Biddeford, City Clerk Carmen Morris suggested that 19 proposed charter revisions – in addition to six ballot questions plus presidential, congressional and legislative races – are likely driving up demand for absentee ballots this year. In 2012, the city processed 1,848 absentee ballots.

“We have over 1,000 (requests) now and we’re still a month away from the election,” Morris said.

Lewiston City Clerk Kathleen Montejo described the 840 requests so far as “a little on the high side,” which she said is not surprising given the dynamics of the presidential race.

Other towns, however, were reporting lower interest. Augusta, for instance, had received 390 absentee ballot requests as of Friday, compared to 527 requests as of Oct. 1, 2012.

Voters can request absentee ballots from their clerk’s office until Nov. 3 – with exceptions for some special cases – and have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to submit those ballots with the local clerk’s office. However, officials are urging voters to take into account the slower pace at which mail is being delivered in Maine because of changes at the U.S. Postal Service to ensure their ballots arrive on time.


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