AUGUSTA (AP) – State efforts to make it easier for Mainers to vote have reached a new stage.

This week, in advance of statewide voting on Nov. 6, polls are already open in Bangor, Readfield and Portland.

Absentee voting is relatively simple in Maine, but those wishing to vote that way still need to obtain a ballot, fill it out, seal the ballot in an envelope, sign the envelopes, and then turn them in.

The experimental Early Voting process allows people in the three pilot communities to go to a polling place and cast a ballot just as they would on Election Day.

Three bond questions appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, as well as an initiated question on whether an Indian tribe can run a harness racing track with slot machines and high-stakes beano games in Washington County and a proposal put out by the Legislature to ease legislative term limits from four two-year terms to six.

“Three communities have opened their polls more than a week early, allowing residents to cast their ballots just as they ordinarily would on Election Day,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in a statement.

“It’s called Early Voting, and it is a major effort to make exercising your constitutional right to vote as convenient as possible.”

Crediting the participating communities with “crafting their own plans for carrying out this initiative,” Dunlap said, “if it’s well-received in these three locations, Early Voting could become available as an option for municipalities statewide as another way to accommodate the busy schedules of the voting public.”

Various local issues will be decided by some balloting and five open seats in the state House of Representatives will be filled.

The open seats result from three resignations and two deaths. Departed representatives were from Cornish, Lewiston, Mount Vernon, Dixfield and Greenville. Three of the seats had been held by Republicans, two by Democrats.

Participants in the Early Voting initiative will render a verdict of their own, according to Dunlap.

“The purpose of the pilot program is simple – to determine if Early Voting can be a success, for both voters and municipal officials. The three municipalities taking part in this Early Voting pilot program are providing a simple, anonymous questionnaire to the voters taking part in the program, allowing them to weigh in on the process. It’s a great way for us to get some feedback,” Dunlap said.

“It’s the opinions of the voters that truly matter – not just in deciding the outcome of the elections, but in this case, in how those elections will be carried out, now and in the future.”

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