It’s weird to have a statewide election in July.
Right now, though, there are lots of things that are weird, and at least for registered Maine voters, the July election is as easy as ordering from Amazon – maybe easier if you’re still trying to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer online.
Registered voters can go online and request an absentee ballot from the Office of Secretary of State.
Your ballot will be mailed to you when it’s ready.
The statewide election original scheduled for June 9 was moved to July 14 to help keep voters and poll workers safe and to lesson the risk posed by COVID-19. That was smart.
Lines and crowds are dangerous during a pandemic, and thousands of people streaming through voting locations would be enough to make any poll worker nervous, even with folks wearing masks and practicing – as well as possible – physical distancing.
Voting by mail means you can cast your ballot from the comfort and safety of your own home and mail it in when it’s convenient for you.
It’s an important election, too. Voters have some big choices to make.
There is a statewide primary to choose the Democratic nominee to face off against US Sen. Susan Collins in November. Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman are seeking the nomination.
There are also a scattering of primaries in other races where votes can weigh in.
Plus there are two critical bond questions on the ballot: Question 1 would invest $15 million to expand access to high speed Internet, particularly in rural areas, and Question 2 would invest $105 million in transportation projects. (Disclosure: I’m working to support a “yes” vote on Question 1.)
Voting by mail is safe and simple, and, at least in Maine, not controversial. We’ve been doing it for years without problems.
Once ballot are printed, they will be mailed to those registered voters who have requested them, usually about a month before the election. Then it’s as simple as making your choices and either mailing your ballot in or returning it to your town hall. All absentee ballots must be received at town hall by 8 p.m. on July 14.
Registering to vote is also easy, even during a time when some town halls aren’t open or you might be reluctant to visit.
To register to vote for the July 14 election, a person must be 18 years old by the General Election, a US citizen and a resident of Maine. Simply fill out a voter registration card – which are available at town halls, Bureau of Motor Vehicle branch offices and other government agencies.
For Maine residents who want to register to vote by mail or through a voter registration drive, the cut-off date is the close of business on the 21st day before the election.
But you can register in person to vote right up to and including on Election Day.
Election Day is one of my favorite civic events. When my kids were young, my wife and I would take them to the polls with us. I’ve always enjoyed shaking hands with the candidates outside and running into neighbors who I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.
The process of marking the ballot in a little booth and then sliding it into the scanner or ballot box is fun. The small talk with poll workers – how’s turnout, how are the crowds – and the good feeling of knowing that have done your civic duty as a citizen are all part of the day.
I’ll miss the social aspects of Election Day, but this year my wife and I have both requested our absentee ballots. It took about five minutes for both of us.
For the last few months, a trip to the mailbox has been about as far as I’ve traveled from my house on most days. Now, I’ve got another reason to look forward to the trip – it’s the way I can make sure my voice is heard in the July 14 election.