With a week to go before Election Day, about 16% of the Maine electorate already has voted.

As of Monday, municipal clerks had received and accepted 144,578 absentee ballots, or 16% of Maine’s 904,674 registered voters, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. In 2018, the last gubernatorial election, Maine voters cast a total of 188,533 absentee ballots.

A staffer with the Portland City Clerk’s Office unloads absentee ballots from a drop box at City Hall in 2020. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer, file

The state is on pace to surpass that number this election, according to state officials. The number of absentee ballots requested in this election – 211,359 to date, with ballots available upon request through Thursday – is already 7% higher than the total 2018 requests.

If 2018’s 96% return rate holds, Maine should expect to see more than 200,000 absentee votes cast in this election. That could mean as much as 23% of Maine’s electorate would opt to skip Election Day lines and cast an absentee ballot instead.

“No excuse absentee voting is a great option for many people, whether they’re busy and need the flexibility it provides, whether they prefer the privacy of voting at home, or whether they’re enthusiastic and want to cast their vote as soon as possible,” Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said.

The state data shows that Maine Democrats are taking advantage of the absentee voter opportunities more than other voting groups.


As of Monday, the Secretary of State’s Office had received 211,359 absentee ballot requests. Of those, about 51 percent, or 107,664 ballots, were sought by Democrats; 24 percent, or 49,707, by unenrolled voters; and 23 percent, or 47,646, by Republicans.

That means that almost a third of Maine’s 339,103 registered Democrats had wanted to skip the Election Day lines, compared to just about 19 percent of Maine’s 257,565 unenrolled voters and about 18 percent of Maine’s 272,003 Republicans.

Maine has what it calls a “no-excuse” absentee voting law, which means that any Maine voter can choose to vote absentee, whether in person at their municipal office building or at home, for any reason. Absentee ballots can be requested at municipal offices through Thursday.

Maine voters also can visit the secretary of state’s website by 5 p.m. Thursday to request an absentee ballot. After Nov. 3, under special circumstances, like a hospitalization, a voter may still vote absentee.

Absentee ballots can be returned to the municipal clerk in person or by mail no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day or put in a secure municipal voter drop box, if one is available. If using mail, voters can use the secretary of state’s website to make sure the ballot arrives in time.

Those trying to vote absentee by mail who see their vote has not been “counted” as of 6 p.m. on Election Day are encouraged to go to their municipal polling place to cast a traditional ballot, state officials said. Election officials will not count the absentee ballot should it turn up in the last mail of the day.


The stakes are high. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is being challenged by former two-term Republican Paul LePage, who is seeking a third term, and independent Sam Hunkler. And all 186 seats in the Legislature – 35 seats in the Senate and 151 in the House – are up for grabs.

While Republicans nationally have criticized absentee voting, LePage’s campaign alerted his supporters about the start of early in-person voting, imploring them to “make a plan to vote.” The social media post takes supporters to his website, which tells them how to obtain absentee ballots.

Both of Maine’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives also are up for reelection.

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden is locked in a closely watched reelection rematch against former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the 2nd District. Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree is being challenged by Republican Ed Thelander, a former Navy SEAL, in the 1st District.

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