WINDHAM — At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, eight election clerks gathered in Town Council chambers to begin processing the thousands of absentee ballots already signed, sealed and delivered to town offices.

A sign outside the Raymond town offices on Webbs Mills Road reminds patrons to follow COVID-19 precautions. Inside, residents can return their absentee ballots or vote early. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

Town Clerk and Registrar Linda Morrell said even a week out from Election Day, the number of absentee ballots received is probably more than double those returned for the 2016 presidential election, and they’re still waiting on more to come in.

Election officials have been allowed to begin processing absentee ballots earlier this pandemic year, already a record breaker in terms of returned absentee ballots.

“It has been unbelievable this election, which is good because we’re under space limitations over at the polling place,” Morrell said.

While officials can scan ballots in voting machines, the data will be stored on an encrypted memory stick until 8 p.m. next Tuesday.

As of Monday afternoon, 5,997 of the 7,749 absentee ballots requested in Windham had been returned, Morrell said.

In neighboring Raymond, Town Clerk Sue Look stacked large plastic totes filled with over 1,000 returned ballots in a small room inside the town offices, where they’ll be kept safe until counting begins Saturday.

“If we waited until Election Day, we would be processing until 12 or 1 a.m.,” said Look.

Candidate signs dot the driveway to Windham Town Hall on School Road. Town Clerk Linda Morrell said the number of absentee ballots requested this year is double from the election four years ago. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

As of last Friday,  1,197 of the absentee ballots of the 1,595 absentee ballots Look issued had been returned.  In 2016,  873 returned absentee ballots were returned, about 60 less than were requested.

In Gray, registrar Kailey Hanley has set aside four days before Election Day for processing. She said the July election gave her and the other officials a better idea of the amount of work ahead of them.

“There was a lot of absentee (voting), but not as much as this so we kind of had to tweak our prep. But (we’re) going forward definitely prepared,” she said.

Hanley said Tuesday 2,742 ballots were returned and accepted, and she was still waiting on 551 more. That’s more than double the amount of returned absentee ballots for the 2016 presidential election.

The state prescribes COVID-19 prevention voting protocols and provides personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other materials, such as plexiglass dividers, to towns for in-person polling, but the more people who vote early when polls are less crowded or by mail, the better, the clerks said.

“Raymond has an older population on the whole for our demographics and the older folks do tend to come out. They want to come out to go to the polls and cast their ballots, so I want to make sure they’re safe,” Look said.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.