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Camden town clerk prepares for historic election by absentee ballot

By Susan Mustapich | May 28, 2020

CAMDEN — Town clerk Katrina Oakes is preparing for a historic voting process July 14, due to the expected use of absentee voting by paper ballot to decide local, school and state matters.

Camden's elected officials made the decision April 25 to hold town meeting voting by paper ballot. They and Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell are encouraging absentee ballot voting as a measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A polling place will also be open July 14.

Encouragement for absentee ballot voting is also coming from state officials, including Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, according to The Portland Press Herald. Absentee ballots can be requested by registered voters for any reason in the state of Maine.

Paper ballots will be used to elect local officials and vote on zoning changes, the 2020-21 town budget and all other items usually decided at town meeting.

There will be separate paper ballots for the Camden-Rockport and Five Town CSD 2020-21 school budgets, state primaries and state bond votes on $105 million for transportation improvement projects and $15 million for expansion of high-speed internet infrastructure in underserved areas.

As of May 28, Oakes has received 263 requests for absentee ballots. Residents must be registered to vote in order to request these ballots.

Registered voters can use the online Maine absentee ballot system to request a ballot. The state system can be accessed from the town of Camden website, or the state website Maine.gov.

Absentee ballot requests can also be printed out, filled in and mailed to the town office.

Beginning June 1, when the town office reopens to the public, absentee ballots can be requested in person by a registered voter or immediate family member, who will complete an application in the office. New procedures will limit members of the public in the front office to two at a time, and mask-wearing is required.

Once an absentee ballot request is processed, Oakes prints out a mailing label, attaches it to a large envelope, and files it in a bin in alphabetical order.

Voters who receive absentee ballots via mail, also receive mailing envelopes in which to return them. They can also be left in the town office drop box.

Camden-Rockport and Five Town CSD ballots must be returned in a separate envelope, also included, and cannot be mailed prior to July 3, due to a state law that a public budget meeting must be held prior to the vote.

The actual absentee ballots are expected to arrive at the town office no later than mid-June, as state law requires they must be available 30 days prior to the polling date.

Once absentee ballots arrive at the Camden town office, Oakes must mail them to everyone who has requested them, and from that point on, mail the ballots daily as online and paper application requests come in.

Once the ballots are available, registered voters can vote absentee in the town office, during regular office hours.

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