A tumultuous election season is finally wrapping up. And by next week’s issue we may know which man will lead our nation for the next four years. Then again, we might not. One thing is clear, we will all have to live with each other after.
In the words of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: “The waiting is the hardest part.”
More than 85 million absentee ballots have been requested or sent to American voters, according to the New York Times, and states differ in how and when those ballots are processed. In Maine, absentee ballots must be received by the municipal clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Election officials here are permitted to begin processing absentee ballots up to seven days prior to the election under an executive order issued by Governor Janet Mills. Some states won’t start processing ballots until Election Day. Others will count ballots that are delivered after the election if they were postmarked by deadline.
Added to the unprecedented number of absentee ballots and the time it will take to count them is the fact that Democrats are more likely to vote by mail and Republicans are more likely to vote in person. That means the preliminary, unofficial results on election night might not give a complete picture. Maine also will be using ranked choice voting for the presidential race. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the ranked choice tabulation process will be used. That takes times, too.
Election night results have always been unofficial. States have a certification process that can take weeks. But Americans have come to expect a winner on election night. We’re all waiting for the big reveal. In an age of great uncertainty already, more will be challenging. The trick will be tempering impatience with a commitment to getting it right.
Across Maine, there are hundreds of municipal clerks and poll workers committed to just that. Initial worries about staffing the polls during the pandemic have proved unfounded in many communities, as workers have stepped up for the task. We thank all for their service and professionalism.
In Hancock County, small population sizes and the percentage of absentee voters means that even with social distancing guidelines in place, voters here are highly unlikely to be waiting in the hours-long lines seen in some parts of the country. Many have already cast their ballots by mail. So, let’s count our blessings by putting them to use: vote.