Absentee ballot requests keep town offices busy
By Dawn De Busk
Town halls around the Lake Region have been extra busy with people voting via the absentee ballot this month.
Some of those residents will be absent from their hometown, while others simply do not want to wait to vote or wait in line on Election Day.
“Today, I have had two different people say they didn’t want to wait in line, which is odd because we don’t really have lines,” Raymond Town Clerk Sue Look said.
“We run the election smoothly,” she said.
In fact, on Tuesday, Look had just finished training 15 volunteers to be election workers.
Maine is among 27 states in the U.S. that provide no-excuse absentee ballots, starting on Sept. 30.
“Maine law makes it easy to cast an absentee ballot. You don’t have to be out-of-town or have any other reason to take advantage of this easy way to vote at a time that is most convenient for you,” according to the website for the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions.
After Nov. 3, citizens are required to cite a valid reason in order to vote using an absentee ballot. Those reasons include an unexpected hospitalization or a disability that would prevent a person from getting to the polls. The four allowable reasons are listed on the State of Maine’s Absentee Voting Guide.
In the Town of Raymond, there have been 407 requests for absentee ballots so far with 157 of those returned and accepted, Look said.
“During the last presidential election there were a little over 600. I am guessing it will be close to 1,000,” Look said. “That is a guess because we are a week and a half into” the absentee ballot process.
“I didn’t start mailing them out until Oct. 8,” she said.
Residents could request them 45 days before the election, she said.
“Right now, we have a lot of people coming in and voting here in the office. I have a voting booth set up for them,” Look said.
“It’s easier for us if they vote in the town office. It is easier for the voter as well,” she said. “If they take it home, they have to fill out the application.”
At the Bridgton Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon, two people were filling out their absentee ballot applications, and another person was receiving a ballot and using the voting booth to complete their civic duty ahead of time.
Bridgton Town Hall has had 255 requests for absentee ballots, according to Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne.
“It is a presidential election so it is pretty routine,” Chadbourne said.
“A lot of people just don’t want the wait in line. They are happy to vote absentee. They are happy to have that available — the option to vote ahead of time,” she said.
Chadbourne was able to provide information about the previous presidential election in 2012.
As of Oct. 18, 2012, there were 230 requests for absentee ballots. By Nov. 6, 2012, which was the Thursday before Election Day, Bridgton Town Office had a total of 446 absentee ballot requests. The total number of absentee ballots returned and accepted during the last presidential race was 426, according to Chadbourne.
In the Town of Casco, which has a smaller population than Bridgton, the absentee ballot requests have already reached 288, staff said.
The Casco Town Hall has been very busy with absentee ballot requests for the past two weeks, according to staff.
Some of the absentee ballot voters winter in Florida or another warmer locale, staff in the Clerk’s Office said.
The Naples Town Office has received a lot of requests online and also many in person, with some of those residents receiving their ballots and voting right away, according to Deputy Town Clerk Laurie Hodge.
Hodge estimated that the total number of absentee ballot requests was approximately 250 in the Town of Naples.
In the Town of Fryeburg, the number of absentee ballot requests is a bit lower than it has been in neighboring communities.
According to Fryeburg Deputy Clerk and Registrar of Voters Kelly Woitko, 187 requests have been made and 30 residents completed their absentee ballots while at the town office.
While it remains to be seen whether or not the voter turnout will exceed that of 2012 on Election Day, the absentee ballot voting is on par to what it was four years ago.
Those numbers “are not too different” from the most recent presidential election, Woitko said.