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Mills Signs Executive Order Aimed At Ensuring Safe And Secure Voting Amid Pandemic

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Gov. Janet Mills at a coronavirus briefing Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills is taking steps she says will allow Mainers to vote safely in the November election amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.In a press release, Mills says she signed an executive order Wednesday that will give Mainers until Oct. 19 to apply to register to vote by mail or third person. The previous deadline was Oct. 13. Those registering in-person can still do so up to and on Election Day.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democratic process, and I take seriously our responsibility to ensure that every Maine person has the opportunity to cast their ballot and to do so in a way that protects their health and safety during this ongoing pandemic,” Mills says.

The order also gives municipalities more time to process absentee ballots, which is something clerks told Secretary of State Matt Dunlap they needed.

“We sat down with a bunch of town clerks and asked for their feedback on some of the July changes, and you see the adjustments reflected here,” says Dunlap.

The order also sets out safety procedures at polling places and authorizes secure drop boxes for absentee ballots to be returned after hours. Dunlap says the state will use federal funds to provide financial assistance for municipalities to purchase the boxes.

Dunlap says any registered Maine voter can vote via absentee ballot, and says voters can find out how to request an absentee ballot online.

“I used to work two full time jobs, and I had to be at one place of business by 7:30 in the morning, and I got out at 4 o’clock, and I had to go run straight to my other job, where I worked until 1 o’clock in the morning," Dunlap says. "The reality is a lot of people today have a schedule like that and it’s not possible for them to go down to city hall when it is open.” 

Updated 3:55 p.m. August 27, 2020