Mark your calendar; exercise your right to vote

By Rep. Christine Burstein | Oct 08, 2016

Summer flew by and, judging by both the calendar and the chilly morning air, autumn has officially arrived. That means Election Day is fast approaching.

So often, I hear from people that their individual vote doesn’t really matter. The truth is, though, that every vote matters — especially at the state and local levels. In fact, sometimes legislative races are decided by just a handful of votes. Your participation is important for our democracy and good governance.

Maine voters will have the final say on five citizen-initiated referendum questions as well as a bond issue on Nov. 8. The issues include: recreational marijuana legalization, public school funding, background checks on firearm sales, a minimum wage increase, ranked-choice voting and a $100 million transportation bond proposal.

That is all in addition to candidate elections up and down the ticket from local officials to president. As you can see, there’s a lot at stake this year. By casting your ballot, you will have a voice in deciding who will represent you and in determining our state’s direction on major policy issues.

There are basically two steps in the voting process. The first is registering to vote, and the second is actually casting your ballot. Maine has a proud tradition of high voter turnout and civic engagement, and our laws make it simple and easy for eligible residents to both register and vote.

To register, you must be at least 18 years old by Election Day. Maine has same-day voter registration, which means there is no deadline to register to vote. You can fill out a voter registration card at your town office, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or in person at the polls on Election Day.

You can also register to vote by mail or through a voter registration drive, but you’ll need to do so at least 21 days before the election. This fall, that date is Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Usually we think of visiting our local polling place on Election Day to vote, but Maine law allows voters to cast a ballot without going to their polling place on Election Day. This is called absentee voting.

As long as you request an absentee ballot at least three business days before the election, you do not need provide a specific reason why or show that you are not able to vote on Election Day. You can request an absentee ballot online at or by contacting your town clerk. If you can’t make the request yourself, an immediate family member can make the request for you under state law. Your town clerk can help with this process.

If you have questions about any aspect of voting, I encourage you to contact your town officials. You can also direct questions about registering to vote or casting your ballot in Maine to the Office of the Secretary of State, Elections Division, by calling 624-7650 or emailing

As always, please feel welcome to contact me at with questions or concerns related to state government. It’s an honor to serve as your state representative.

Rep. Christine Burstein, D-Lincolnville, is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives and is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. She represents the towns of Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont.

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