The primary election is just two and a half weeks away. This is no ordinary year. Are you sure you know how to vote? And when?
First of all, you must be registered to vote in the municipality where you live. You must be 18 years old to vote in the general election, but if you’re 17 you may register and vote in the primary as long as you will turn 18 by November 3. You must also be a U.S. citizen. You can request a voter registration card online at the Secretary of State’s website or pick one up at your town office or a Motor Vehicle office.
Most small towns have just one voting place. It may be your town office or a local school. Check with your town clerk to be sure that has not changed this year. Some towns may have had to shift customary voting places to comply with social distancing rules.
For all Maine municipalities, the state ballot was postponed from June 9 to July 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That ballot will include primary elections for state and congressional candidates and two bond issues, one for high-speed internet infrastructure and one for transportation.
There are incumbents in all three congressional seats up for election in November. Current U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is running again and does not have a primary challenger, but there are three Democratic candidates, Sara Gideon, Bre Kidman and Betsy Sweet, vying to get to the general election. U.S. Senators are elected every six years. Senator Angus King is not up for re-election until 2024.
Likewise, in both Maine Congressional districts, the incumbents, Democrats Chellie Pingree in CD1 and Jared Golden in CD2, do not face primary opposition but do have Republican challengers. The Republican primary for the CD2 seat is between Adrienne Bennett, Eric Brakey and Dale Crafts. The general election slate is established for CD1 as neither incumbent Pingree nor challenger Jay Allen has primary opposition. These seats are elected every two years.
Also in a two-year election cycle are all state legislative candidates. Hancock County has some lively races going. Two Republicans, former senator Brian Langley and John Linnehan are in a primary hoping to take on incumbent Sen. Louie Luchini in the fall.
There are two primary challenges to incumbents. Sen. Kim Rosen will face Larry Lockman, who was term-limited in the House. Two Democratic challengers, Trudy Scee and Beverly Uhlenhake, also have a primary in that race. In a unique stand-off, two women lobstermen will contest a House seat when incumbent Genevieve McDonald faces challenger Julie Eaton. Sarah Pebworth (Blue Hill) has no opposition at all.
If you are not registered in a political party, your primary voting will be short and sweet. You are not permitted to vote in a party primary unless you are a member of that party. Maine is one of a dwindling number of states with closed primaries.
Efforts are made to open the primaries almost every legislative session, but with just a handful of non-party members among the 186 sitting legislators, it is an uphill battle. Independents, who outnumber both parties among registered voters, do help pay for the primaries through their tax dollars, but participate? They may not.
If you are anxious about going to potentially–crowded polling places on Election Day, don’t sweat it. In Maine, anyone can vote “absentee.” You don’t need a reason. Request a ballot online and it will be mailed to you or stop by your local town office and pick one up. Cast your votes and mail it or hand-deliver it to your town office.
If you like this option, don’t delay; request a ballot now. The volume of requests could increase as the election draws near and you must meet the deadlines or lose your vote. If you want a ballot mailed to you, your request online or by phone must be made before July 9 for the July 14 election, and you must get your completed ballot to your town clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
You can do it all in one step by visiting your town office, requesting a ballot, filling it out on the spot and hey, presto! You’re done. You are not likely to face crowds, and you can always check with your town clerk to find out when there are the fewest people dropping by.
Remember that if you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain. If you wish you could do something to improve the current political climate in our country, sitting home is definitely not the answer. The Secretary of State’s website has an abundance of information and virtually every candidate has a website with bios, policy positions and contact information. Make your choices and get out and vote.