Absentee voting underway in 2024 Presidential Primary Election

No-excuse absentee voting has begun for Maine’s March 5, 2024 Presidential Primary Election.

The Democratic and Republican Parties are holding presidential primaries. The Green Independent, Libertarian, and No Labels Parties did not choose to hold presidential primaries. There is also a Special Election in House District 122, which encompasses part of South Portland.

“Maine elections are free, fair and secure, and our 30-day, no-excuse absentee voting period is a big part of that,” said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. “Whether it’s a busy schedule, a desire to vote from home, or concerns about the weather on Election Day, there are lots of reasons Mainers may choose to vote ahead of time. Maine’s no-excuse absentee voting laws ensure voters can participate in the upcoming presidential primary in the way that is most convenient for them.”

Voters may request ballots online or by contacting their town or city clerk. Contact information for municipal clerks is available online.

Maine’s no-excuse absentee voting period, including in-person absentee voting at town and city halls, continues through Thursday, Feb. 29.

Maine voters need only to submit one request to receive their absentee ballot. Once a ballot request is submitted, Maine voters can track the process of that request and their ballot using Maine’s online absentee ballot request status tracker. Voters who need a replacement ballot should contact their municipal clerk.

In many towns and cities, voters will have the option of returning an absentee ballot to a secured drop box. A complete list is available online. Absentee ballot drop boxes must be monitored periodically, secured to the ground or building, and the interior only accessible by the town or city clerk and their staff. Ballots must be retrieved periodically and in teams of two.

The Elections Division will post up-to-date absentee voter data after 3 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays through most of February, then daily beginning Feb. 26.

Upon receipt of an absentee ballot, a municipal clerk will examine the signature of the voter on the absentee ballot envelope and on any affidavit and witness certification on the envelope and may compare it to the signature on their voter registration file. If the ballot requires curing – the required information is not present or the signatures do not match – the clerk shall contact the voter within a day, or on the day before or the day of the election, make a good faith effort to contact the voter. The outcome of the clerk’s inspection of the envelope is noted in the tracker, and a voter can see if their ballot has been accepted or rejected. If a voter’s ballot is rejected, they would be able to cast a different ballot by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

All absentee ballots must be received by a voter’s municipality by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Only one ballot per voter will be processed and counted, whether cast in-person or by absentee. Post-election processes at the local and state level confirm that the number of voters who participate in the election and the number of votes counted match.

Semi-open primaries

Maine’s 2024 primaries will be held under the new semi-open primary law. Unenrolled voters now have the option to vote in any party primary without having to enroll in the party. Unenrolled voters may only vote in one party’s primary.

Voters enrolled in a party must vote that party’s primary ballot. Enrolled voters do not have the option to select another party’s ballot unless they change enrollment at least 15 days prior to the primary. For this election, that date is Feb. 19. However, since Feb. 19 is President’s Day, and most municipal offices are closed on weekends (and many on Fridays) the last day that most voters can change from one party to another and still participate in the Primaries will be Feb. 15 or 16. When voters enroll in a new party they may not change their party enrollment for 3 months, unless they move to a new municipality and establish a new voting residence there.

Voters who believe they may have signed a petition recently regarding party ballot access are encouraged to check on their party enrollment status with their municipal clerk.

There are separate “styles” for the primary ballots, as distinguishing between ballots cast in Congressional District 1 and Congressional District 2 will be necessary should district-level ranked choice voting tabulations need to be conducted. The ballots have the same candidates.

On the Democratic ballot are

  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
  • Dean B. Phillips.

There is one declared write-in candidate for the Democratic race: Stephen Lyons.

On the Republican ballot are:

  • Ryan L. Binkley
  • Ron DeSantis
  • Nikki R. Haley
  • Vivek G. Ramaswamy
  • Donald J. Trump.

Doug Burgum had previously qualified for the ballot, but because he notified the Department of his withdrawal more than 70 days before Election Day and asked to be removed, he will not appear on the ballot.

At this time, the Department of the Secretary of State has not received notice from any campaigns that they have withdrawn from the race. Should any do so at this point, the Department would notify municipal clerks of the withdrawal, and notice would be sent with absentee ballots, posted at voting sites, and posted on the Secretary’s website.

Should any candidates be found, at this point, to be disqualified from the ballot, or pass away, the Department would notify municipal clerks, and notice would be sent with absentee ballots, posted at voting sites, and posted on the Secretary’s website.

Maine election law governing removal of candidate’s names because of withdrawal, disqualification, or death was most recently amended in 2019. The new law passed unanimously in the State House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Mills.

Ranked choice voting

These are the first Presidential Primary Elections to be held in Maine as ranked-choice voting elections. Should any candidate, either statewide or in either of Maine’s Congressional Districts, not receive more than 50% of the Election Night counting, a ranked-choice tabulation will be conducted in Augusta in the days following Election Day.

Voter registration

To register to vote in Maine, voters must be Maine residents, U.S. citizens, and at least 16 years old, though only Mainers who are 18 years old on or before November 8, 2022 may vote in the General Election. When registering for the first time, voters must provide proof of residency and identity. Current or former incarceration status does not disqualify any Mainer from registering to vote or casting their ballot. Incarcerated persons at a correctional facility or county jail may register to vote in the Maine municipality where they established residency prior to incarceration.

Maine has same day voter registration, meaning that Mainers may register to vote and cast their ballot on the same day, even Election Day. Registrations done by mail need to be received by the municipal clerk of the voter by Tuesday, Feb. 13. After that date, registrations must be done in person at the voter’s municipality.

A 2021 law authorizing online voter registration in Maine went into effect last week. Mainers can register to vote online at maine.gov/vote. Maine is now among forty two states (plus Washington, D.C. and Guam) which offer online voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ongoing absentee voting

Voters who will be at least 65 years of age by the next election or who self-identify as having a disability may apply for ongoing absentee voter status. A voter who qualifies will automatically receive an absentee ballot for each statewide election, municipal election and any other election for which the voter is eligible to vote and need not submit a request for each election. Application forms are available on the Secretary of State’s website.

This newly-implemented law received bipartisan support in the Legislature and was signed by Governor Janet Mills in 2021.

Voters with print disabilities

For voters with print disabilities, an accessible ballot is available to request online. Voters must self-certify that they are blind or otherwise disabled, and that their disability prevents or substantially limits them from being able to privately and independently complete a paper absentee ballot. This option is available to ensure that all voters are able to cast their vote while maintaining their right to a secret ballot.

For in-person voting, voters with print disabilities (or anyone who chooses to use it) each polling place has an accessible voting system available for use.

Uniformed and overseas voters

Uniformed and overseas voters (UOCAVA voters) began receiving ballots 45 days prior to Election Day, in accordance with federal law. These voters include spouses and dependents away from their Maine voting residence by reason of active duty or service of the member, and U.S. citizens currently living outside the U.S. and whose residence before leaving the U.S. was in Maine. The longer period for UOCAVA voters to receive their ballots is to ensure that they are able to cast their ballot as other Mainers can, regardless of how accessible where they are living is.

Absentee ballot processing

Absentee ballots may be processed up to seven days before Election Day, with notice. Absentee ballot processing is a public process which may be observed by partisan and nonpartisan observers. Early processing may happen between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9 p.m., except when an inspection is requested. At such times, processing may not begin until the inspection period has concluded. Requests for inspection of absentee ballot applications and envelopes must be submitted in writing by 9:00 a.m. on each day of early processing.

During absentee ballot processing, teams of two work in stages. First, the absentee voter list is marked, then the ballots and envelopes separated, and only when a sufficient quantity of ballots has amassed, are the ballots unfolded and placed into the tabulator or ballot box. Ballots and envelopes are kept secure after each day of early processing. Absentee ballots are not counted until after 8 p.m. on Election Day, just as all other ballots.

Many municipalities will conduct absentee ballot processing on Election Day itself, under the same procedures.

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