Breaking down Maine's pandemic primary elections
Maine's primary and state referendum election is less than a month away.
COVID-19 has caused state election officials and municipalities to change things up a bit.
Voting during a pandemic means if you're planning to visit the polls, be prepared to stand in line.
That's what town clerks are warning voters of ahead of next month's primary election.
Bangor Town Clerk Lisa Goodwin says because of social gathering restrictions, only 50 people can be together at a time, elections staff included.
That means only 20 voters at a time at the Cross Insurance Center.
Goodwin says she also has a limited number of new staff this year.
Many of her long-time election workers are seniors and don't want to risk their health this year.
"We have to have in-person voting. It's very important. It's going to be very frustrating for people on election day to have to stand in line. We have a very minimal crew. We have to clean everything. So, the process is going to take longer," says Goodwin.
Election workers will be given P-P-E and voters are encouraged to bring their own masks.
"If you don't have a mask and you show up at the polling place you'll still be able to vote. We're not going to prohibit people from voting but we are asking people to be very careful in public," says Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
All of this is why election officials are strongly encouraging folks to vote absentee this year.
"A little bit more paper work than showing up at the polls and voting but the advantage in this pandemic is that people can vote from the comfort of their own kitchens," says Dunlap
You can request your ballot online or fill out an absentee request application and send it to your municipal clerk.
You can also call your municipal office directly.
Absentee ballots can be requested all the way up until election day.
Dunlap says, "If you vote by absentee, there's no grace period. We don't go by post marks. It has to be in the possession of the clerk by 8 p.m. on election night or else it cannot be counted."
Election officials recommend mailing in your ballot 7 to 10 days in advance.
They also ask that rather than licking the envelope to seal it, use a sponge or glue for the safety of election workers.
Some municipalities are using ballot boxes to submit absentee ballots.
Bangor will have one outside of City Hall starting next week.
"They don't have to come into the building. They do not need to pay for postage. They can come and just drop it off," says Goodwin.
A video tutorial on how to vote absentee can be found on the Secretary of State's website at maine.gov/sos/
If you have not registered to vote, an executive order from the governor has extended that deadline to July 7th.
Again, you'll need to account for mail in times.
For more information on voting, you can reach out to your local municipality or visit the secretary of state's website.