John Clark on an extremely important issue right now. While Brenda stole a bit of my thunder on Friday, this issue is too important not to keep up the reminders. I’ve never missed voting in an election since I became eligible to do so. What transpired with the Vietnam War and student activism during my college years sold me solidly on the importance of doing so. Sometimes the candidates were as exciting as cold, greasy hamburger, but I held my nose and still cast my ballot.
Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like every other aspect of life, it has kicked the election process in the butt big time. We’ve seen what happened in various primary elections: long lines, epic rhetoric and distrust about the process and a huge spike in requests for absentee ballots. If you follow Maine news outlets, or active in the political arena as a volunteer, you’re aware that larger municipalities like Portland are desperate to recruit enough poll workers for the November 3rd election.
That brings me to the theme of this post-absentee balloting and how to go about it in Maine. First, I realize many readers of the MCW blog are from other states, but what I lay out here can be extrapolated to whatever state you live in. If you’re active in a political party at this moment in history, sure as hell, you’ve been asked to get involved, whether it’s through donating money or time, it’s happened. I’m doing both (monthly contributions to Moveon.org and Emily’s List) and through various candidate campaigns in Maine (senate on both state and national levels, local mayor and city council in Waterville). I learned early on that I’m completely useless at phone banking. I got over my fear of knocking on doors when I ran for the legislature in 2018, but cold calling makes me freeze up (no pun intended) every time. I’ll deliver signs, display them on our lawn, put stickers on my car, help with mailings, write postcards and letters to the editor…And even pilot the blimp, or hang upside down waving a banner as it flies over the country.
Most of my recent involvement has been through being on call with a voter hotline to field questions about the upcoming election in terms of where to register and vote, as well as in efforts to make sure that clear and accurate information about the absentee voting process is available. It’s worth noting that as of September 3rd, 120,000 Maine voters have requested an absentee ballot.
One thing I’m doing that’s pretty easy is evaluating town websites to see what they’ve got posted in terms of information for residents. I’m looking to see whether they have easily found information on how to request an absentee ballot, what the deadlines are for requesting one, when it needs to be completed and where to send/deposit it. Of the six towns assigned to me thus far, two-Bucksport and Milford, have no information about the November election. Warren has its act completely together and the other three hover between zip and comprehensive.
Requesting an absentee ballot if you’re a registered Maine voter is very easy, just go to this link and fill out the information. https://apps.web.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl While the deadline for doing so is 10/29/20, the sooner you request, the less chance it doesn’t reach you. While the most common way to return them is by mail, many towns have a secure drop box where voters can deposit them and there’s even a way to absentee vote in person. This and other questions are answered at this link on the Secretary of State’s website. https://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/voter-info/absenteeguide.html
Two more things of note. First be aware that in person voting in many Maine municipalities will involve waits of an hour or more because of limited poll workers and COVID-19 precautions. Second, if you want to help, AARP is encouraging people to ‘adopt’ a town clerk to help process and mail out requested ballots. If you’re interested, call your town clerk and see if they need help.
Stay safe, but please DO vote.