On Election Day, as municipal clerks, staff and volunteers from Kittery to Fort Kent set out in the early morning hours to open polling places at 7 a.m., they were treated to the wondrous sight of a total lunar eclipse. It was beautiful and moving – and brought up the same feelings I had throughout the day as I greeted voters at the polls, watched parents with toddlers, newly registered young people, and older couples arrive to cast ballots, and observed the careful work of tabulating the results after the polls closed.

Anne Carney Scott Dorrance photo

Voting is a powerful expression of what it means to be American and to live in a democratic society.

Voting is also a powerful expression of what it means to be a Mainer. Maine’s voter turnout typically ranks among the highest in the United States. Election Day 2022 was another one for the record books – an estimated 70 percent of voters cast ballots. That’s an increase of 5 percent compared to the 2018 midterm election, and I’m excited to see how Maine’s turnout compares to other states as numbers are finalized across the country.

Much credit and gratitude is owed to Maine’s municipal clerks, as Secretary of State Shenna Bellows acknowledged: “The election clerks were our Election Day heroes. It’s truly an incredible feat to have more than 6,000 volunteers and local professionals all across the state making sure that every Maine citizen who wanted to vote was able to cast their ballot.”

Maine’s proud voting tradition reflects our strong election laws. This Legislature passed important new laws to make voting more accessible in our state. Student IDs are now accepted for voter registration. Automatic voter registration provides Mainers who visit a BMV branch to get or renew a Maine driver’s license and provide proof of residency and citizenship the option to register to vote or update their voter registration (16 and 17 year olds can pre-register). And online voter registration will become available in November 2023.

Voters line up to cast ballots in Cape Elizabeth on Election Day. An estimated 70 percent of voters cast ballots in Maine. Drew Johnson photo/The Forecaster

Our laws have been updated to account for the increased usage of absentee voting, including making permanent ballot drop boxes and the absentee ballot tracker system, as well as giving clerks more time and resources to process absentee ballots.

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Maine will also adopt semi-open primaries beginning in 2024. About one-third of Mainers are unenrolled independent voters, and this new law allows an unenrolled voter to cast a ballot in a single party’s primary election so long as the voter has not been enrolled in a political party for at least 15 days.

Members of our community reached out to me with a good question about ranked-choice voting (RCV), so I’ll respond here. Why was RCV used in the 2nd District Congressional election but not in the election for governor?

The Maine Constitution requires that general elections for state representative, state senator and governor be decided by a plurality. Primary elections for these offices and general elections for federal offices, on the other hand, are governed by state law and can be decided by RCV. A constitutional amendment could authorize RCV in the general election, and that process starts with legislation that must be passed with a two-thirds majority in both the Maine House and Senate, and approved by a majority of voters.

To all who voted on Nov. 8, I want to close with a genuine thank you. Thank you to everyone who voted. If this was your first time voting, I hope you vote in every election for the rest of your life. Voting really does matter for you, your family, our state and our country.

Anne Carney represents Maine Senate District 29, which consists of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough. She can be reached at 207-287-1515 or [email protected]

 

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