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As we’ve pointed out in the past, absentee voting remains one of many ways Maine voters can make their voices heard at the ballot. The recent November 8th midterm elections saw more than 250,000 Mainers utilize this voting method.


So what is absentee voting and why would Mainers benefit from a permanent option?


What Is Absentee Voting?

Absentee voting allows all eligible voters to vote outside a polling place once they request a ballot, which is delivered to them via postal mail. This option is available to uniformed service voters and overseas voters as well. You can request a ballot on the Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions website.


What Are The Benefits of Absentee Voting?

Absentee voting has proven to be a simple and convenient option for many voters. For instance, since Maine has no-excuse absentee voting, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created an increase in absentee ballot requests. During the 2020 election, 532,272 absentee ballots were issued compared to only 196,710 absentee ballots two years prior.


Today, absentee voting remains a safe and convenient option for individuals who may be immunocompromised or prefer to vote outside of a polling place for other reasons. That includes voters with disabilities, who can always request an accessible absentee ballot that can be delivered electronically.


The Future Of Absentee Voting In Maine

Despite the many benefits of absentee voting, Maine does not have a permanent list. Making absentee voting permanent would significantly reduce the cost of staffing and equipping traditional polling places. This would bring financial savings to our municipalities and reduce the administrative burden on our election officials. Not to mention the benefit of making voting easier, while increasing voter participation across the state.


Arizona, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, Virginia and the District of Columbia all send absentee ballots automatically for each election, and it’s high time Maine joined those states. Mainers For Working Families believes our democracy is better off when it is made accessible to everyday Americans. That’s why we support future efforts to secure a permanent absentee voting option in Maine.

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We just watched the most expensive gubernatorial race in Maine history - a whopping $23 million was spent by outside groups in the contest between Governor Janet Mills and Paul LePage. This shatters the record $18 million set in 2018. Meanwhile, the State Senate race in Aroostook County surpassed $1 million in spending, more than twice what was spent on any other state legislative race this year. Over 93 percent of this spending came from outside groups.


This is part of a growing trend of big money being spent by outside groups to sway elections in Maine. Last year, groups on both sides of the Question 1 debate spent nearly $100 million to decide the future of the CMP corridor, the most expensive referendum campaign in state history. More than half of that money came from CMP and its partners, including parent company Iberdrola in Spain and Hydro-Quebec in Canada. In 2020, the Senate race between Sarah Gideon and Susan Collins saw over $200 million in spending.


The rapid increase in campaign spending is hardly a Maine-specific problem. Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened the door to unlimited campaign spending, corporations and outside groups have increased their election spending by 900 percent with little to no accountability.


This trend is not merely an increasingly irritating barrage of political advertising and campaign emails. It’s a clear sign that wealthy donors and special interests are drowning out the voices of everyday Mainers. The only way we can hope to restore a democracy that works for us is to get big money out of politics.


Maine legislators and citizens alike are taking steps to address the problem of outside spending in state elections. This year, the group Protect Maine Elections gathered over 80,000 signatures from voters to put a question on next year’s ballot to ban spending on referendum campaigns by corporations with partial foreign ownership, including Versant. Maine is also one of 19 states that publicly supports a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United. The proposed referendum on spending by multinational corporations reaffirms this support.


Sign if you agree: Maine must put a stop to the flood of big money in politics.


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Did you know that people are more likely to vote if they have a plan in place ahead of time? Writing out a voting plan or talking about it with someone lets you understand what you need to know ahead of time to make Election Day a breeze.


So what does a voting plan entail? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Where is your polling place? Maine.gov offers a handy Voter Information Lookup System to help you know for sure. This tool will also show you which candidates are on your ballot.

  • When do you plan to vote? There are a couple of easy ways you can cast your ballot between now and Election Day.

  • If you’re planning to vote early via an in-person absentee ballot, meaning you fill out your absentee ballot at your town clerk’s office, you can do so through November 3.

  • If you plan to vote on Election Day, pick a time that works best for you. Some polling places open as early as 6 AM, and polls close statewide at 8 PM. Check your town website or contact your town clerk to find out when your polling place opens.

  • How are you getting to the polls? Are you walking to the polls or driving yourself there? Are you getting a ride from someone or giving another person a ride? Will you take public transportation? A few things to know:

  • Public transportation in the Greater Portland, Bangor, and Lewiston-Auburn areas has been free on Election Day in the past, and will likely be so again.

  • Uber and Lyft are offering 50% off rides to the polls.

  • Are there actions you need to take to execute your voting plan? Do you need to take time off work or secure childcare in order to cast your vote? If you haven’t voted in Maine before or have recently moved, you may also want to check your voter registration status. Same-day voter registration is available, but make sure you bring your driver's license number or Social Security number and a form of ID with your name and address (a piece of mail addressed to you at your physical address also counts).

Making a voting plan is one of the easiest and most important ways you can prepare yourself to cast your ballot. It’s never been easier to vote in Maine, so make sure you get out and vote on or before November 8!


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