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Politics

What Voters Need To Know As They Head To The Polls In Maine's Primary Election

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Robert F. Bukaty
/
Associated Press
An election official hands an "I voted today" sticker to a woman after she cast her ballot in the mid-term election, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Auburn, Maine.

Mainers head to the polls Tuesday, July 14, to vote in the state’s primary elections – that is, unless they have already voted. In this primary election, voters will choose candidates from their respective parties to vie for seats in the general election Nov. 3. Voters of all party affiliations will also weigh in on two bond issues.

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Maine voters will formally nominate candidates to compete for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Sen. Susan Collins, and for the state’s two congressional district seats, both occupied by Democrats.  Candidates for legislative races will also be chosen, and some local and statewide bond issues decided.

The election comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to an increase in absentee voting, and prompted state officials to issue a set of voting guidelines.

What is different this year?

In an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Maine’s primaries were moved, via an Executive Order from Gov. Janet Mills, from their original date of June 9.

Additionally, state officials made it more accessible for Mainers to cast absentee ballots this year. The governor's order states that "applications for absentee ballots may be made in writing or in person up to and including the day of the election." Ballots must be returned by the time polls close at 8 p.m.

Voting in person is still an option for those who wish to do so. A list of polling places can be found here. State officials say that the wait to vote is expected to be longer than in previous years, due to capacity limits at polling places, social distancing and sanitation precautions.

They also say that polling places will be equipped with protective and sanitation equipment, including antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer, tabletop protective shields, screen cleaners for the vote tabulators and sanitized pens. Signs may be posted at polling places to indicate social distance measures for those waiting and voting.

Petitioners outside of polling places are responsible for sanitizing their own pens and other equipment.

Voters are encouraged to wear face coverings. 

Will ranked-choice voting be used to select candidates?

Ranked-choice voting, or RCV, will be in effect for the primary. In races where there are more than three candidates, RCV allows voters to mark them by order of preference. The votes are then counted in rounds. The lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated each time, until one candidate wins a majority of the vote.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 2nd District in the U.S. House, was the first member of Congress elected with the method. Now, his challenger for the seat will be chosen the same way. Learn more about ranked-choice voting here.

What races are on the ballot?

U.S. Senate:

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, is running for reelection, and Democrats will choose a challenger. The three Democratic candidates vying for a chance to defeat Collins are Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, attorney Bre Kidman, and lobbyist Betsy Sweet.

U.S. House, 2nd District:

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, is seeking his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Three Republican candidates are competing for a chance to beat him in November. They include Adrienne Bennett, a former spokesperson for Gov. Paul LePage, former state Sen. Eric Brakey, and former state Rep. Dale Crafts.

Voters will also decide on candidates in a number of legislative races and several local issues on municipal ballots across the state.

What if I am not a registered Republican or Democrat?

The state of Maine has "closed" primaries. This means that only those registered to one of Maine's  qualified political parties may vote in party primaries. Maine currently has three qualified parties: Democratic, Green Independent and Republican that may participate in primary elections.

All Maine voters can vote on the statewide bond issues on the ballot in the primary election.

In Maine, there is no cut-off date for registering to vote in person. Voters can register at the polls on Election Day.  You'll need to provide proof of identity and must verify that you will be at least 18 years old by the time of the general election, scheduled this year for Nov. 3.

Non-party candidates who gathered the required number of signatures will appear on the ballot in November.

What are the bond issues on the ballot?

Mainers will vote on two bond issues that add up to a total of $120 million dollars. In both cases, the bond issue would trigger federal matching funds. Question 1 would authorize a bond issue for internet infrastructure improvements, and Question 2 a bond issue for transportation improvements. The two items will appear on the ballot as follows:

Question 1: Bond Issue

An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Infrastructure To Improve Transportation and Internet Connections

“Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to invest in high-speed internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas, to be used to match up to $30,000,000 in federal, private, local or other funds?”

A "yes" vote would be in favor of authorizing $15 million in municipal bonds to provide internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.

Question 2: Bond Issue

An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Infrastructure To Improve Transportation and Internet Connections

“Do you favor a $105,000,000 bond issue for improvement of highways and bridges statewide and for multimodal facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation and active transportation projects, to be used to match an estimated $275,000,000 in federal and other funds?”

A "yes" vote would be in favor of authorizing $105 million in municipal bonds for transportation infrastructure projects.

You can find more about the upcoming elections, including primary debates and interviews with candidates, through Maine Public’s Your Vote 2020 coverage. Maine Public will feature coverage of the primaries throughout your Tuesday and on Wednesday morning.