In preparation for administering the General Election Tuesday, Nov. 3, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary Matt Dunlap is issuing updated guidance to ensure that all voters can safely participate in casting their ballots.

As of Oct. 8, more than 300,000 Maine voters have requested to vote by absentee ballot in this election, which is more than Maine has ever seen before at this point in the election season.

“With the influx of absentee ballot requests this year, we are issuing some additional guidance and offering new services for voters to ensure a smooth election,” said Secretary Dunlap. “We have also received questions about pandemic prevention measures at the polling places on Election Day, both for election officials and voters, and we are advising the municipal clerks on all the best practices for keeping everyone safe.”

Guidance on absentee voting

If you choose to vote in-person absentee by visiting your town office before Election Day, the State requirements for face coverings are in effect. If you do not have a face covering, the clerks may provide you with one, or provide you with an absentee ballot to vote at home.

Voters who have requested an absentee ballot by mail will not be issued a second ballot if they seek to vote in-person absentee ahead of Election Day, except in special circumstances. The state does not print more than one ballot per voter, and an influx of double requests will result in ballot shortages. Voters who change their minds about voting with the absentee ballot they have already received are advised to either bring in their blank ballot to vote it in the presence of the clerk, or complete their ballot from home and return it via mail or to the municipal clerk/dropbox directly. Read the full guidance document here.

To vote absentee by mail, request a ballot as soon as possible, either directly from the town clerk or using the Online Absentee Ballot Request service. After receiving the ballot, return it to the own clerk as soon as possible, to allow clerks to take advantage of early processing time to handle the unprecedented influx of absentee ballots this year.

In returning a ballot by mail, allow at least seven days for mailing time. Otherwise, drop it off to the town clerk as soon as possible. Many towns and cities in Maine are also offering the option for voters to deposit their ballot in an official ballot dropbox on the city or town hall property. No matter how a ballot is submitted, all ballots must be submitted to town clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Absentee ballots can be tracked with the new online tracking service, to see when the application is received, when the ballot is sent out and when it is received by the clerk after it’s returned. If there are any issues with an absentee ballot, such as if the voter forgot to sign the outer envelope, the clerk will contact the voter to correct the error so the ballot can be cast as intended.

For more information about absentee voting, visit the Absentee Voting in Maine page.

Guidance on in-person voting on Election Day

Polling places for the General Election will be open on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, for in-person voting. Voters should allow additional time to complete the voting process, as wait times are expected to be longer than usual due to capacity limits, social distancing and sanitization measures in place at the polling site. Voters may have to wait outside due to the restrictions; be prepared for the weather.

Personal protective equipment will be offered to election workers, courtesy of a donation from L.L. Bean and Flowfold; all election workers must wear face coverings and use tabletop barriers at the check-in tables. Voting booths will be sanitized according to CDC guidelines, and pens will be single use. Candidates and petitioners will be allowed to set up outside and will be required to wear cloth face coverings and maintain 6 feet distance from voters.

All voters are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when visiting the polls to vote, but cannot be turned away from voting on Election Day for not wearing a face covering.

Per Maine law, voters are advised to refrain from wearing face coverings or other clothing/accessories that display the name of a candidate on the ballot. Election workers, poll watchers, petitioners and others stationed at the polling place will not be permitted to wear any apparel expressing support or opposition for any candidate or issue on the ballots. Read the full guidance document here.

Influencing or attempting to influence any voter’s decision about how to vote, or intimidating a voter, is prohibited by federal and state law, and any complaints about such activity should be directed to the election warden at the polling place. Read the full guidance document here.

Polling places may be consolidated or moved up to 10 days prior to Election Day, so voters are advised to check with the municipality or use the Voter Information Lookup Service for the latest updates prior to heading out to vote.

For more information, visit the State webpage; call 626-8400; email; or via Twitter and Facebook.

Voters can find detailed information about all the special provisions in place for voting during the pandemic by visiting the Upcoming Elections page.

How will COVID-19 prevention measures affect my in-person voting experience?

Guidance Documents for Elections During COVID-19