PORTLAND (AP) – Candidates made their final sweeps across the state Monday as their campaigns and political parties intensified behind-the-scenes effort to get voters to the polls. Municipal clerks, meanwhile, awaited an opening of the floodgate of ballots.

All signs – including a record number of absentee ballots – pointed toward record-setting voter participation on Election Day, officials said.

Nearly 200,000 votes had been cast via absentee ballot as of Election Day eve, breaking the old record of 160,000 absentee ballots cast four years ago, election officials said. Even with all of those absentee ballots, as many as 550,000 Maine voters could cast their votes Tuesday.

Instead of a calm before the storm, the tempest arrived a day early for clerks in more than 70 towns that were granted permission to begin processing absentee ballots on Monday.

“It’s crazy. The phones are ringing off the hook and the staff is a little stressed,” said City Clerk Linda Cohen in Portland, where 13,144 absentee ballots had been requested as of Monday morning. That beat the city’s old record of 10,003 absentee ballots four years ago.

Even though they were opening and processing envelopes, no tallies were allowed to be taken before the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Election officials, meanwhile, warned that there could be lines at polling places, despite all of those absentee ballots. The Election Day forecast called for partly cloudy skies with temperatures running in the lower 60s in southern Maine, or about 10 degrees warmer than normal.

Taking into account all of those factors – including about 30,000 newly registered voters in Maine – the state predicted the largest turnout ever, between 75 to 80 percent of voting age residents in Maine, said Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state for elections.

That would come on the heels of a record-setting turnout four years ago, when about 751,000 ballots, or 74 percent of voting age residents, turned out.

For the candidates, there was no rest for the weary as they continued to travel across the state Monday in hopes of swaying any undecided voters.

In the Senate race, Republican incumbent Susan Collins boarded her campaign bus for a number of stops between Bangor and St. Agatha as her Democratic opponent, Rep. Tom Allen, joined Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts at four locations from Biddeford to Bangor.

Vying for the open 1st Congressional District seat, Democrat Chellie Pingree and Republican Charlie Summers were busy as well. Pingree started the day at Bath Iron Works before traveling to Brunswick, Rockland and Waldoboro. Summers hit Biddeford, Saco, Sanford, Portland and South Portland.

One notable exception was in the 2nd Congressional District, where Republican John Frary had no campaign events scheduled in his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud.

“I’ve done all that I can do. I’ve said what I thought needed to be said,” said Frary, a self-styled contrarian who went into debt to finance his long-shot candidacy.

Michaud, meanwhile, was in Castine, Bucksport and Belfast.

Many voters will be happy to see it all come to an end.

“There’s certainly no shortage of interest, especially in the top-of-the-ticket races. But I also sense that there may be some campaign fatigue,” said Don Cookson, spokesman for the secretary of state. “‘Boy, I’ll be glad when this is over,’ has been a fairly common refrain.”

Behind the scenes, Democrats had 3,200 volunteers ready to go door-to-door and to make phone calls to make sure people vote. Republican were mobilizing a similar effort.

Also getting ready were federal prosecutors, who set up district leaders to monitor voting. In Augusta, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and his crew were doing the same.

Two assistant U.S. attorneys in Portland and Bangor were ready to take calls, and the FBI had agents ready to receive allegations of election fraud or other abuses.

“The franchise is the cornerstone of American democracy,” U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby said in a statement. “We all must ensure that those who are entitled to the franchise exercise it, while those who seek to corrupt it are brought to justice.”

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