Maine: What You Need to Know to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This November
What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.
You don't need a lifestyle website to tell you this election is an important and complicated one, but many of us need to be reminded that the deadlines for registration and mail-in voting are quickly approaching. Luckily, Maine has a fairly simple system that allows voters to register and vote by mail. You can also register to vote on the day of the election so, if all else fails, you only need a valid state ID to make your voice heard on November 3.
We've put together a guide to everything you need to know, including the important deadlines and updated CDC recommendations for staying safe if you choose to vote at the polls. As you make plans to meet these deadlines, especially if you're voting by mail, make sure you factor in enough time for everything to be processed.
What’s the deadline to register to vote in Maine?
In Maine, you can actually register to vote in person up until Election Day, but if you choose to do so by mail, you must send the registration to be received no later than October 19. In other words, send your forms as early as possible.
How to register to vote in Maine
Fun fact: If you've engaged with the Maine's Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the state's already registered you to vote (check if you're registered here). If you've been putting off a trip to the BMV, let this be a motivator. Otherwise, you can register in person at the polls on Election Day or at your municipal clerk's office/city hall up until Election Day. If you're going the mail-in route, print out a voter registration form, fill it out, and mail it to the clerk's office early enough that it's received by October 19.
Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Maine?
Yes, anyone can vote in person before Election Day! Maine offers "in-person absentee" voting for any registered voter who'd like to vote early. Unlike in some states, voters don't need an excuses like living out of state or being over 60, but they do need to get an absentee ballot before they can go to their municipal clerk’s office and vote. The deadline to request a no-excuse absentee ballot is Thursday, October 29. In-person absentee voting runs from Sunday, October 4, through Thursday, October 29.
Can I vote by absentee/by mail?
Yes! As mentioned previously, anyone can request an absentee ballot and vote by mail. Print out the absentee ballot request and return it to your municipal clerk’s office at least three days before election day at the latest. Then, you'll receive your absentee ballot, which you must return to the office by Election Day. That means it must be received by November 3, not just postmarked.
Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it’s counted?
Maine is still working on its mail-in ballot tracking system, so check this website every once in a while to see if it's been finalized.
It would behoove you to carefully follow the instructions on your ballot. Also, it's always a good idea to avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your voter materials -- you don't want you ballot to be thrown out on some sort of technicality.
How can I stay safe while voting in person?
Polls are open for in-person voting from 7am to 8pm on Election Day. You can locate your polling place online.
It's important for you to review COVID-19 safety guidelines and plan your trip to your polling location accordingly. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued several recommendations for how to keep yourself and others safe while voting in person this November.
Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, according to its official election guidance page:
- Wear a mask.
- Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
- Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again.
- Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them. This is where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Use it after you touch the voting equipment or any other equipment at your precinct. If you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried before casting your ballot or touching any of the equipment present.
- Try to vote when your polling place isn't at its busiest. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is or making a plan to vote early in the day.
- Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
- Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it).
- If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. Knowing who you plan on voting for in each race will save you time inside the polling station.