Election Day 2013: Early voting low

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Turner Deputy Town Clerk Joyce Moulin didn’t have to think twice when asked how many voters requested absentee ballots in her town.

“Not very many,” she said Friday.

That’s 23.

Last year, during the presidential election, 500 voters in Turner asked for ballots ahead of time.

The statewide deadline for regular absentee requests closed Thursday night with 76 in Sabattus, “a very low number for us,” Town Clerk Suzanne Adams said. “We normally average between 250-300, except for the presidential (elections).”

In Mexico it was 12, Greene 20, Rumford 121, according to town clerks. For the most part, lower than expected.

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On the statewide ballot next Tuesday: Five bond questions totalling $149.5 million, plus interest.

But it seems transportation and higher education aren’t lighting many fires.

Absent a hot-button issue or a partisan push — Democrats and Republicans trying to get out the vote for their issue or candidate — low makes sense, said Jim Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington.

While some towns and cities have local races, the bonds haven’t gotten much discussion, he said. Probably to their ultimate benefit.

“Without organized opposition to any of the bonds in particular, the people most likely to vote are going to be people who have a strong interest in seeing a particular bond pass,” said Melcher.

With the caveat that he doesn’t like to make predictions, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said off-year elections like this have typically drawn between 15 and 25 percent of the voter-age eligible population.

“That being said, no two elections are alike, given variables like the energy of campaigns, possible local issues that can drive up turnout in unpredictable pockets, and even weather, which can effect turnout,” Dunlap said.

In Auburn, 599 residents requested absentee ballots, according to Alison Pepin in the city clerk’s office.

In Lewiston, it was 1,414, with more than 1,150 returned already. The city has a contested mayor’s race next week.

Last year, during the presidential race, Lewiston fielded more than 5,000 absentee requests.

City Clerk Kathy Montejo said absentee ballots can be returned in Lewiston to her office until 8 p.m. on Election Day. “Special circumstances” absentee ballots are still available through Tuesday for “very limited reasons,” she said, like an unexpected stay in the hospital.

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Video: New voting machines

The state is rolling out 428 new voting machines at 228 municipalities on Tuesday that will look and operate a little differently than machines in years past.

Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo walks voters through a six-minute demonstration of the new equipment at http://www.ci.lewiston.me.us/mediacenter.aspx?VID=12

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