CUMBERLAND COUNTY — With less than a week to go until Election Day, officials in South Portland, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth are already predicting record voter turnouts.

Their assumption is based in part on the unusually high number of absentee ballots already submitted to local clerks.

“We’ve always had a high number of absentees, but I really can’t predict how many we’ll have at the polls,” said Scarborough Town Clerk Tody Justice.

This year, Justice said, the town has 19,055 registered voters. Her office has distributed 11,841 absentee ballots and 10,538 have already been returned. Put in context, Justice said, the last time she saw numbers anywhere near that high for a presidential election was in 2008 – and even then only a little over 6,300 were distributed.

Justice said voter turnout averages between 50% and 65%, but she wouldn’t be surprised if, after Election Day, the total turnout this year hit 75%, which would set a record in town.

“I think we’ll be high,” she said.

In South Portland, the numbers are also high. According to Town Clerk Emily Scully, the city had 6,306 absentee ballots counted in the 2016 presidential election. This year, she said, the city has already topped that, with 12,064 ballots distributed and 10,611 already returned from a pool of approximately 20,000 registered voters.

“That’s a big jump from what we saw in 2016,” she said.

Scully said she believed the higher numbers were due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and people are trying to protect themselves from going out in public.

“I know that’s been in large part to help keep people safe,” she said.

South Portland City Manager Scott Morelli agreed that more people are trying to avoid actually visiting the polls this year, but he predicted there will still be a healthy turnout on Tuesday, despite the large number of absentees.

“I think there’s still be a big turnout on Election Day itself, but I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said of the absentee volume.

In Cape Elizabeth, Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said on Wednesday that the town has distributed 5,690 ballots and 4,731 have already been turned in as of Monday this week.

“I know that number’s only climbed since then,” he said.

On Thursday, Sturgis confirmed the number had risen to 5,800 absentee ballots with 5,300 turned in. This, he said, in a town with approximately 8,600 registered voters.

Sturgis said for the 2016 presidential election, the town recorded 6,598 ballots cast total, or 80% turnout, and of those, only 3,800 were absentee. Sturgis said he thinks after Election Day, final voter turnout will be between 80% and 85%.

“We’re going to do more than 2016,” he said.

Sturgis said Cape Elizabeth has always had a healthy voter turnout, and praised Town Clerk Debra Lane and her staff for keeping up with the volume.

“I think the voters have been excellent and the staff have stepped up to the challenge,” he said.

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