Election Day might be a week away, but the 2020 election won’t play out over a single day. This year, the first Tuesday in November marks the end of “Election Month.”

Mainers have been taking advantage of our no-excuse absentee ballot laws in larger numbers than we have ever seen before. By Monday afternoon, half as many people have turned in early ballots as the total number of voters in Maine four years ago.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, election officials have publicized voting alternatives that would reduce congestion at the polls to slow the spread of the virus. But a side benefit of this effort may also turn out to be a higher level of participation in the election, both here as well as in states that are allowing no-excuse absentee voting for the first time. It turn out, if you make voting easier, more people will vote.

As we get closer to the deadline, voting options are starting to narrow.

It’s too late to put an absentee ballot in a mailbox if you want to be sure that it’s counted. Maine law requires absentee ballots to be received by the time the polls close – they can’t just be postmarked on Election Day. Officials may still be counting votes in your town next Wednesday, but if that’s when your ballot gets delivered, it will not be one of them.

There are still plenty of ways to participate in the election, though.


The safest option for anyone who has requested and received an absentee ballot is to drop it off at their municipal office. Many cities and towns have installed secure drop-off boxes where absentee ballots can be returned after business hours or over the weekend right up until the closing of the polls on election night.

Municipal offices will be conducting early, in-person voting until the close of business on Friday. People who are not yet registered to vote in the municipality in which they live can register, request an absentee ballot, fill it out and drop it off, in the same visit.

And, there is always the option of voting on Election Day. There was no known spread of coronavirus at the July 14, primary, which showed that voting can be conducted safely. Going to the polls is as safe as shopping for groceries if people wear masks and observe social distancing. In Maine, you can register to vote at the polls on Election Day, so no one who wants to participate needs to be shut out.

A quick review of the national news shows that it’s not so easy to vote in other states. Cities around the country are limiting voting locations, and even early voters have to wait in line for hours. We have the benefit of strong pro-voter laws that precede the pandemic, and a tradition of high voter turnout.

That should continue in this election, despite the concerns that the coronavirus would make voting more difficult. Giving people multiple ways to vote and a long period of time to do so is good for participation in our democracy and should be part of our election culture even after the pandemic is over.

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