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Maine voter turnout is 'very high' on Election Day, says secretary of state

Election 2022 America Votes
Robert F. Bukaty
A clerk hands a ballot to a voter on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine. The state of Maine uses a ranked choice voting system for some of its election races.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows says it's looking like voter turnout will be "very high" this Election Day, even after more than 200,000 Mainers voted using absentee ballots.

"We saw in the absentee ballot returns, a quarter-million absentee ballot requests," she said Tuesday morning. "That's a record for a gubernatorial election, and at the polls, we've seen lines in Portland. We've seen steady turnout all across the state."

During an interview with Maine Calling late Tuesday morning, Bellows said the only problems she's heard about so far are the kinds that often occur during the course of an Election Day.

"Someone knocked over the express voting machine, it smashed. But there is the old fashioned way of voting for people with disabilities. So, those kind of snafus happen on occasion," she said.

Bellows noted that during the last gubernatorial election in 2018, about 65% of voters cast ballots. That figure rose to about 76% during the 2020 presidential elections, and she predicted this year’s turnout could be around 70%, which would be extremely high for a midterm election.

“Mainers should be so proud,” Bellows said in an interview. “In 2020, we were third in the nation in voter participation. Given the high absentee ballot returns and the lines at polls today, we think we may on track to be first in the country.”

Bellows visited polling places in Kennebunk, Scarborough and Portland this morning. By day's end, she'll also have visited Waterville, Brewer, and Indian Island.

Bellows said so far there have been no reports of any incidents this Election Day of people intimidating voters or poll workers.

But she noted there were three incidents earlier this fall.

That included someone who was "very aggressive with a clerk" while doing in-person, absentee voting; someone who was taking pictures of people depositing their ballots in an absentee drop box; and an online threat that Bellows says was "not very specific."

She said municipal clerks were offered training earlier this fall on how to de-escalate any conflicts that might arise involving people trying to monitor today's vote.