Superior Court Justice William Stokes has denied a group’s request to order changes in Maine’s election law that would make it easier to vote during the pandemic. But the Alliance for Retired Americans is appealing two parts of the decision to the State Supreme Judicial Court.
The Alliance wanted the court to order six changes, including a provision that would allow Mainers to register to vote online, and another requiring the state to pay for return postage of absentee ballots. Stokes denied the requests, but the Alliance is now asking the law court to order local election officials to notify a voter if their absentee ballot is rejected. That can happen now, but is not required.
The Alliance also wants the high court to order that ballots postmarked before Election Day be counted.
“The Postal Service has frankly told all 50 states that it may not be able to deliver in its normal delivery time, so we just feel that those ballots, if postmarked by Election Day should count,” says Richard Fiesta, executive director of the group.
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says the law requires receipt of all absentee ballots no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day so that the results can be certified before new legislators take office in the first week in December.
“We have two days for the towns to get their results to the secretary of state’s office, the secretary of state has another 18 days to certify the results of an election, 20 days after the election. There are 29 days between Election Day and the swearing in of the Legislature,” he says.
Dunlap says within that window there will be recounts and time needed to process ranked-choice voting.
Stokes acknowledged the circumstances of the pandemic and the postal service’s mail delivery problems, but decided they did not warrant the extraordinary action of changing election laws by court order. Similar requests in some other states have been granted, but rejected in others.
It’s expected that the State Supreme Judicial Court will take up the appeal quickly.