Voters in line at First Baptist Church on Tuesday, Election Day. Despite record-breaking absentee and early voting, lines were long at many Portland polling locations. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Portland election wardens Tuesday morning said voter turnout was at unprecedented levels, driven by a plethora of local races and referendums, the most expensive U.S. Senate contest in Maine history and a divisive presidential race.

Voters in District 4 wait in line to cast their ballots in the St. Pius Church Parish House Tuesday, Nov. 3. Voters in the district were electing new representatives on the city council, school board and House of Representatives. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“We had 25 people in line at 6 a.m. and it has been steady ever since,” said Alicia Grinnell, the election warden at the polling place at St. Pius Church on Ocean Avenue, Tuesday. “It’s not surprising because we are always busy first thing in the morning, but I have a feeling it is going to be pretty steady all day.”

“Four years ago was very busy and that is the way we are starting this year,” said Gregg Jones, the deputy warden of the polling place at First Baptist Church on Canco Road, shortly after polls opened.

Grinnell said there seems to be more of an interest in this year’s election than the last presidential election.

In 2016, 38,574 people cast ballots, according to the city clerk’s office.

As of July 14, there were 60,967 voters in the city, approximately 3,000 more than were registered for the last presidential election.

“People are more engaged and more excited to vote,” Grinnell said. “It feels a bit more momentous than in previous elections.”

Bill Densmore said this was an election he did not want to miss.

“I am 90 years old and it is probably going to be my last election. I wanted to make sure I got” to vote, said Densmore as he waited in line outside the Baptist church.

Josh Carney said he was motivated to vote by local, state and national issues. He said he was concerned about local questions regarding rent control and minimum wage increase.

“The top of the ticket and the local election is extremely important to me,” he said.

Janice Grant said she was anxious to cast her ballot and make some changes in terms of who is representing her.

“There is a lot of concerns out there and everyone has to put their input in by voting,” said Grant, who was most concerned about the presidential and U.S. Senate races.

Those two races were also of concern to Daniel Hughes, who does not typically vote, but felt compelled to this time.

“Based on what I have seen, there has been some pretty egregious, offensive things from the current administration,” he said.

The line for early voting snakes down Myrtle Street onto Congress Street Thursday, Oct. 29. As of Oct. 30, close to 28,400 people had already voted. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

As of Friday, Oct. 30, more than 32,530 absentee ballots had been requested and 28,400, or 87%, had already been returned.

“This is the highest absentee turnout ever,” said Jessica Grondin, the city’s director of communications and digital services.

Grondin said many people voted via absentee, in part, to avoid exposure to the coronavirus.

For some voters, however, voting in person is the only way to cast a ballot.

“I vote in every election no matter what,” said voter Donna Madison as she waited in a line at St. Pius Church that extended along the church property and onto Ocean Avenue. “It is just what I do and I always do it in person.”

Jones thanked city officials for all the work done to prepare for this election.

“I am pleased the city could make this work on such a large scale in these trying circumstances,” Jones said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic. “I appreciated all the extra work that went into this make it happen.”

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