Jacob Allen, 29, center, who is visually impaired, votes early with the help of a caregiver in the State of Maine Room at City Hall on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Portland voters are showing an early interest in city and state elections this year, with more than 10,000 absentee ballots requested by city residents so far.

With just under three weeks to go until Election Day, 10,165 absentee ballots have been requested, including 284 from people who have voted in-person absentee.

City Clerk Ashley Rand said the numbers are on track to exceed the number of absentee ballots requested during the last gubernatorial election in 2018 – 10,530 – and reflect a trend of more people voting absentee since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each election we see more and more voters vote via absentee,” she said in an email Tuesday.

Portland has 47,659 registered active voters. Last November, 21,292 cast ballots, including 6,266, or 29%, who voted absentee. In the November 2020 election, which included a presidential race and came as COVID-19 cases were spiking, 41,396 people voted, including 31,037, or 75%, who cast absentee ballots.

Portland has a lot to vote on this November. There are 13 ballot questions, including five citizen-initiated referendums and eight questions from the Charter Commission. Two City Council races – for District 3 and an at-large seat – are on the ballot, as are two school board seats, also for District 3 and at-large.


Voters also will be weighing in on the race for governor, Maine’s 1st Congressional District and state legislative races.

On Tuesday, the governor’s race and Portland’s referendums, as well as a desire to avoid Election Day crowds, were drawing voters to Portland City Hall for early in-person voting.

“The governor’s race, 100%,” said Jeanne Lajoie when asked if there was anything in particular motivating her to vote this year. She said she cast her ballot for Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who is being challenged by former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican. “I think she’s done a lot of good for the state,” Lajoie said of Mills.

Jeanne Lajoie discusses casting her absentee ballot at City Hall on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Lajoie, a substitute teacher in Portland and Yarmouth schools, said she also wanted to weigh in on Portland’s many referendums. “There’s a lot and I had to read through and really read up on them and learn what each one was,” said Lajoie, 65.

Martha Colwell, a retired teacher and principal, said she and her husband talked about Portland’s referendums a lot before she went to cast her ballot Tuesday. “We didn’t just vote (the same way on everything), we thought a lot about each one,” said Colwell, 80.

Colwell said she didn’t vote for Question 2, which is the most significant change to city government being proposed by the charter commission. It would expand the size of the City Council and enhance the mayor’s authority. “I just think it’s a lot of power (for the mayor),” she said.


Last year, the city had about 62,000 registered voters, and Rand said that number has dropped because of a statewide “purge of inactive voters.” Those who haven’t voted in the last two federal elections were moved to inactive status. That brought the number of active, registered voters in the city down to about 42,000.

Then, over the last three months, Rand said the city has seen about 5,000 new voter registrations in preparation for November’s election.

Ashley Rand, Portland’s city clerk, points out sample ballots at City Hall, where residents can vote early in-person through Nov. 3. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Lauren Sparacino, who recently moved to Portland from California, registered to vote Tuesday. She said she generally supports the citizen-initiated referendums but is planning to do more research before voting.

The citizen-initiated questions include Questions A and B, which regulate short-term rentals; Question C, which further limits permissible rent increases under the city’s rent control ordinance; and Question D, an increase to the minimum wage and elimination of the sub-minimum or tip credit wage.

Question E seeks to restrict the number of cruise ship passengers who can disembark in the city, but the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign, which put the question on the ballot, is no longer supporting it.



Sparacino, 40, said she currently rents but would like to one day be able to buy a house. “I’m definitely interested in the citizen’s initiatives about real estate and Airbnb’s, anything that’s related to housing,” she said.

Voter turnout will be key to determining the outcome of some of this year’s ballot questions. Under state law, a charter revision can only take effect if, in addition to a majority of ballots being cast in favor of the question, the total number of votes on the question equals or exceeds 30 percent of the total votes cast in the city in the last gubernatorial election.

Martha Colwell votes early at City Hall on Tuesday. She said that she didn’t vote for Question 2. “I just think it’s a lot of power (for the mayor),” she said. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

That means that in order for a charter commission proposal to pass, at least 10,225 votes must be cast on the question.

In-person absentee voting in Portland is available at City Hall through Nov. 3. According to the city’s website, early in-person voting is taking place in the State of Maine Room from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The city clerk’s office will be open until 5:30 on Wednesdays for in-person absentee voting and will remain open until 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Residents also may request an absentee ballot online, by mail or by calling the clerk’s office at 207-874-8677. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 3, unless special circumstances exist, and absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be processed and counted.

The city has two 24-hour drop boxes where ballots may be dropped off, including at City Hall next to the Myrtle Street entrance or at the Public Works Building at 212 Canco Road. More information on absentee voting is available online.

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