Two months ago, Maine held a primary election in the midst of a pandemic, processing an unprecedented number of absentee ballots.

Election officials said that it was a good trial run for the November general election, which will also be held under pandemic conditions, and more than 230,000 voters requested ballots by last week. But now election officials are fielding calls from voters who want to know if they can change their minds and vote in person after all.

What changed? Simple. President Trump and Republican allies like Attorney General William Barr have engaged in a baseless campaign to question the integrity of 2020 election results. They have claimed without evidence that mail-in voting is especially vulnerable to voter fraud, and that such ballots should be viewed skeptically, especially if they are counted after Election Day.

This line of attack is affecting two different groups of voters: those who believe the president and don’t want their vote to be changed or trashed by political criminals, and those who think the president is lying but are afraid that he will try to stop the count before their vote is recorded. Trump is shaking confidence in the fairness election. When people can’t trust the results, they may not bother to vote at all.

Mainers should not fall for this. Whether we vote in person or by mail-in ballot, we can trust that municipal clerks in hundreds of precincts are doing their best to scrupulously conduct fair elections in which every valid vote is counted. Maine has outstanding election security practices, including paper ballots that are retained by the Secretary of State, available for recounts.

Trump’s strategy was on display Tuesday night, when he debated the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump interrupted Biden constantly with lies and personal attacks, baiting him into testy exchanges in often indecipherable cross-talk. It ended up being a debate without any policy content, and it would be impossible to say that Trump “won” on the basis of his charm. But if his goal was to turn people off, to make voters just tuning in to the campaign decide that nothing that matters to their lives was being discussed, he succeeded.

The Press Herald is running a series of stories called “Counting Your Vote” that answers many questions people have about how ballots will be collected and recorded.

To vote absentee, registered voters can request a ballot to be mailed to them, or they can request one and fill it out in person at their municipal office. Either way, voters have to return their ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day, which this year is Nov. 3.

The Secretary of State’s Office now allows voters to track their absentee ballot through the system. A feature on the website will tell you if your ballot request has been received, when your ballot is mailed to you and when your returned ballot has made it back to your municipal office. It is a safe and secure process that Maine people can trust.

People planning on voting absentee can’t wait until the last minute to make up their minds. With disruptions in the mail service, it may take a week for a ballot to reach you and another week for a completed ballot to be received  by your municipal clerk. If that creates too tight a window, voters can go to their municipal office in person and fill out their ballot right on the spot.

Or you can change your mind and vote in person on Election Day, even if you have already requested an absentee ballot (but not if it has already been received by your municipal office). One of the lessons of the July 14 vote was that it is possible to conduct in-person voting in a way that is safe for both voters and election workers. There were no outbreaks associated with voting in July, thanks to the procedures and equipment put in place by the state.

Maine has an excellent record of running fair and accurate elections with very high rates of voter participation. There is no reason to believe that this year’s will be any different.

However they choose to vote, Mainers should be assured that their votes will count.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.