We all have questions about how to safely cast our ballots in this unusual election year. This FAQ was built on questions from Maine voters, with answers informed by the Maine Secretary of State. Mainers have several ways to vote: by absentee ballot, in-person absentee, or at the polls on Nov. 3. All of these methods are safe and secure, and we recommend that each voter choose the method they’re most comfortable with, and cast their ballot with confidence that every eligible vote will be counted.
The most important thing you can do this year is vote. The second most important thing is to help turn out the vote. Visit our election guide Maine Votes 2020 to find volunteer opportunities. Have a question we didn’t answer below? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who can vote absentee in Maine?
Maine has no-excuse absentee voting, which means any registered voter can vote absentee for any reason.
I am a Maine college student studying remotely due to COVID-19. Can I still vote in Maine?
Yes, as long as you are registered to vote in your school’s town. Any student attending a Maine college who is otherwise eligible to vote can register to vote in Maine if their intention is to reside here. You must provide proof of Maine residence when you register; if you live in a dorm, you must provide your room number and dorm’s physical address. If you don’t have a dorm or local address because you’re studying remotely due to COVID-19, ask your school for the appropriate address and documentation. Students planning to vote absentee from out-of-state should be sure to request their absentee ballot when they register (to avoid delays, we recommend doing this before Oct 13), and return their completed ballots ASAP. Find more info for students from the Secretary of State.
How do I get an absentee ballot and what is the deadline to request one?
Although you may request a ballot by mail, we recommend avoiding delays by submitting your request online or calling your town clerk to request one. The deadline to request an absentee ballot online or by phone is Oct. 29, but we recommend that all absentee ballot requests after Oct. 13 be made in person at your town office. (See below for info on voting in-person absentee.)
NOTE: You should submit only ONE absentee ballot request.
When will I receive my absentee ballot and how do I return it?
If you’ve already requested yours, you should get it and a return envelope very soon. Complete it, sign the back of the envelope, seal it, and return it ASAP by mail or to your clerk or a ballot drop box at your town office. Absentee ballots must be received by your town clerk by 8 pm on Nov. 3. Your polling location may be different than your town office. Check with your town clerk in advance to find out where you can return your ballot if doing so on Election Day. Voters can track the status of their absentee ballot via the new online tracker.
NOTE: Be sure to sign the back of your ballot envelope. Your ballot will not be counted if the envelope isn’t signed!
Can I pick up or return an absentee ballot for another voter?
You may request and/or return an absentee ballot for an immediate family member. You may also designate in writing a “third person” (not an immediate family member) to pick up and return your ballot. Ballots submitted this way must be witnessed by either a notary public, a municipal clerk, a clerk of courts, or 2 other witnesses.
How can I vote absentee in-person?
In-person absentee voting is when you request, complete, and return your absentee ballot at your town office. You can vote in-person absentee between Oct. 5 and Oct. 30. Although the state has asked towns to expand their office hours for in-person absentee voting, each town sets its own hours and occupancy limits. Call your town office before you go.
NOTE: The Oct. 30 deadline is for in-person absentee voting. Absentee ballots can be returned to your town clerk or deposited at the drop box at your town office until 8 pm on Election Day.
How will drop boxes work?
Many town offices in Maine have secure ballot drop boxes located outside the town office. The state will reimburse a town for 80% of the purchase and delivery costs for the drop box. If your town does not have a drop box, there may still be time to get one. Call your town clerk to find out.
NOTE: Return your ballot ONLY to the drop box at your own town office. Only a voter, a voter’s immediate family member, or a voter’s officially designated third person should deposit a ballot in a ballot drop box.
How early should I mail my absentee ballot?
Absentee ballots must be received by your town clerk or deposited in the drop box at your town office by 8 pm on Nov. 3. To be safe, we recommend requesting your ballot by phone or online before Oct. 13 and returning it ASAP to your town clerk or to a ballot drop box at your town office. After Oct. 13, we recommend that all absentee ballots be requested and returned in person or to the drop box at your town office. Voters can track the status of their absentee ballot via the new online tracker.
What happens to my absentee ballot when it is received at my town office? How are absentee ballots kept secure?
When your clerk receives your ballot request, mails your absentee ballot to you, or receives your completed ballot, they log it in the central voter registration (CVR) system. When your clerk receives your ballot, the signature on the back of the envelope is checked against the ballot request form and logged in the CVR. Absentee ballots remain sealed and stored in a locked location until they are processed. This year, processing can begin as early as 7 days before the election. See below for information on processing.
Will my absentee ballot be counted if it is postmarked by Nov. 3?
No. Ballots must be RECEIVED by your town clerk or deposited in the drop box at your town office by 8 pm on Election Day. Plan ahead.
How do I know if my town office received my absentee ballot?
This year, voters will be able to track their absentee ballot request and returned ballot online through the Secretary of State’s new online tracker. If you can’t find your ballot on the tracker and you are in the U.S., you should call your town clerk. If you are a uniformed service or overseas voter, call the Elections Division of the Secretary of State at 207-624-7650
How will I know if my absentee ballot was rejected?
The Secretary of State issued guidance to all town clerks about how to resolve absentee ballot issues, a process called “curing.” Clerks must make a good faith effort to contact voters as quickly as possible if there is an issue with their ballot so that voters can correct the problem. The most common issue is an unsigned ballot envelope, so be sure to sign it! Voters can track the status of their absentee ballot via the new online tracker.
Will the post office deliver my ballot to my town office if I don’t add enough postage?
Long-standing USPS policy (< at that link, see #24 under the Q&A at the bottom) has been to deliver all ballots mailed by voters even if they lack sufficient postage. Although no announced changes to this policy have been made, recent upheaval at the USPS suggest that is a possibility. If your town does not provide postage-paid return envelopes, be sure to affix sufficient postage to your absentee ballot before mailing it. Unsure of how much postage to use? Call your town clerk.
When are absentee ballots counted?
No ballot is counted until after the polls close at 8 pm on Nov. 3. However, clerks can begin “processing” absentee ballots as early as Oct. 27 this year. Processing includes reviewing ballot envelopes to make sure they are complete, opening the envelopes, and either feeding the ballots into scanners or, for towns that do not use ballot machines, setting them aside in secure lockboxes until the polls close and ballots are counted. This process is completed by municipal staff or election clerks and is open to poll observers.
NOTE: All ballots are counted at the same time, whether they are cast absentee or at the polls, and no ballot is counted before the polls have closed.
If I requested an absentee ballot, can I change my mind and vote in-person before it arrives, or vote at the polls instead?
If you requested an absentee ballot, please wait for it to arrive and use that ballot to vote. Complete it and return it by mail ASAP, to your town clerk, or to a drop box at your town office by 8 pm on Election Day. If you choose to vote at the polls on election day instead, you should still return your unmarked ballot to your town office. Ballot shortages are a real risk if too many people do not use the absentee ballot they requested.
If my absentee ballot is damaged or if I make a mistake, can I request a new one?
Yes. Call your town office ASAP to request a replacement.
If my absentee ballot hasn’t arrived by voting day, can I vote at my polling place?
Yes. You have the right to vote, and if your absentee ballot has not arrived in time for you to complete and return it, you can go to the polls and vote in person. However, if you do receive your absentee ballot in time, you should complete it and return it by mail ASAP, to your town clerk, or to a drop box at your town office by 8 pm on Election Day.
NOTE: Your polling location may be different than your town office. Your ballot must be received at your town office by 8 pm on Election Day. Plan ahead.
VOTING AT THE POLLS
How do I find my polling place?
Find your polling place, town office phone number, list of candidates you will vote on, and a list of your current elected officials in the Maine Voter Information Lookup Service.
NOTE: Some polling locations may be closed or relocated due to a lack of poll workers. Call your town clerk and plan ahead.
Do I need a photo ID to vote at the polls?
No. Registered voters are not required to show ID in order to vote. However, if you are planning to register to vote at the polls on Election Day, you will need to complete a voter registration card, which asks for your driver’s license number, state ID number, or last four digits of your social security card. When you register for the first time in Maine, you’ll also need to provide identity documents that show you have established your voting residence in the State of Maine. You can show a current utility bill, or use your driver’s license or ID, bank statement or paycheck stub. Any government document with your name and address will do. Find more information about the kinds of documentation that are accepted from the Secretary of State.
What COVID-19 precautions are elections officials taking to ensure voters’ and poll workers’ safety?
The state provides Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all towns for use by poll workers, including plexiglass barriers, face masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, single-use pens for marking ballots and re-aligned polling stations to enhance social distancing, in accordance with recommendations from the Maine CDC.
NOTE: In compliance with CDC recommendations, the maximum capacity inside a polling location is 50 people, which includes voters and workers. This may mean longer-than-usual lines outside. Plan ahead.
Are voters required to wear masks and socially distance at the polls?
Voters are encouraged to wear masks, but they are not required to do so. Voters are also asked to keep 6 feet of distance between themselves and others.
Are cities and towns consolidating/eliminating polling locations?
Some cities and towns may consolidate or move polling locations due to a shortage of poll workers and/or out of safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maine Voter Information Lookup Service will be updated as polling locations are finalized. Voters can also call their town clerk to verify their polling location.
If I am eligible to vote but a poll worker says that I can’t, what do I do?
If your voting eligibility is questioned at the polls, you can still vote! You should request a provisional, or “challenged” ballot. Challenged ballots are counted in the same manner as regular ballots. If a candidate requests a recount and there are enough challenged ballots to affect the outcome of the election, the election may be contested and appealed.
Where do I report voting irregularities, such as intimidation at the polls, problems casting my ballot, etc.?
You may report voting irregularities to:
- ACLU of Maine at 207-774-5444
- Voter Protection Team at (207) 990-0788 (call or text) or email@example.com
- Secretary of State, Division of Elections, at 207-624-7650.
How do I volunteer to be a poll worker and where can I work?
You may be a poll worker if you are at least 17 years old, are registered to vote in Maine, and are not a candidate or a member of a candidate’s immediate family. In most years, you can only be a poll worker in the county in which you are registered. Thanks to an executive order by Gov. Mills, this year you can also be a poll worker in an abutting county. State law requires each polling location be staffed with an equal number of registered Democrats and Republicans (or no more than one additional worker from either party), but also allows the use of poll workers who are enrolled in the Green Independent Party or who are not enrolled in any party. Learn more and sign up to be a poll worker HERE.
How do I vote with ranked choice voting?
Sometimes called “instant run-off voting,” ranked-choice voting (RCV) ensures that only candidates who win at least 50.1% of the vote are elected to office. For the November election, voters may rank candidates for the presidential, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House races, but not state races. Learn more about how RCV works on the Maine Secretary of State website or from the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.
Can I vote if I am living or stationed outside the U.S.?
Maine residents who are uniformed service members or who are currently living outside the U.S. may be allowed to vote in Maine’s elections if you meet certain criteria. Visit the Maine Secretary of State for more information.
Can I vote if I have a felony conviction?
Yes. Maine does not disenfranchise voters due to felony convictions. Provided you meet the state’s voter registration requirements, you may register and vote in Maine even if you are currently serving out your sentence.
What’s the difference between voting by mail and absentee voting?
Technically, there is no difference between voting by mail and absentee voting. There is, however, a difference in mail balloting systems. In some states, like Maine, voters must request an absentee ballot to receive one by mail. Other states mail ballots to all eligible voters without the voter having to request it, known as “universal vote by mail.” Both systems have been found to be safe and secure.
Are claims of widespread voter fraud true?
Find more information on voter registration and voting on the Maine Secretary of State’s website.