Absentee Ballots Suggest Sizable Interest In Maine Election

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Tens of thousands of Mainers requested absentee ballots for Tuesday's election, suggesting a higher-than-usual vote in an off-year election.

More than 88,000 absentee ballots have been returned, which is ahead of the 2019 election before the pandemic.

That points toward a higher-than-normal turnout for an election in which the statewide ballot features only referendums and no high-profile state or federal political races, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said Monday. Turnout is expected to be much lower than 2020, however, when presidential and U.S. Senate elections topped the ballot.

Mainers will have their say on a 145-mile power line, funded by Massachusetts ratepayers, that would serve as a conduit for Canadian hydropower to reach the New England power grid.

Also generating attention is a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right for Mainers to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing. Proponents call their movement “food sovereignty” or “right to food.”

Also on the ballot is a $100 million transportation bond issue, with most going to highways and bridges. About $15 million would to other projects including rail, aviation and ports.

All told, about 119,000 absentee ballots were requested, meaning roughly 30,000 ballots had yet to be returned.

All ballots must be be received by clerks or placed in one of more than 330 ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday, when polls close.

In Maine, mail-in ballots that are postmarked on Election Day but do not arrive before polls close will not be counted.

Because of the pandemic, voting booths will be spread out and poll workers will likely be wearing masks. Voters are not required to wear masks, but many municipalities are encouraging voters to wear them.