AUGUSTA (AP) — Election Day is still more than a month away, but many Mainers won’t be waiting to cast their ballots.

The state’s political parties are encouraging voters to apply for absentee ballots and vote early as they did in the last presidential election. In 2008, about 32 percent of votes — or 238,940 of them — were cast via absentee ballots, said Megan Sanborn of the secretary of state’s office.

Absentee ballots will be delivered to municipal offices by Oct. 5, and voters have until Nov. 1 — five days before the election — to request them. Unlike some states, any registered voter in Maine may cast an absentee ballot instead of voting in person at polls on Election Day.

Absentee ballots are a key part of political parties’ “get-out-the-vote” efforts.

Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said phone calls to potential voters are being made from more than a dozen field offices. A robo call voiced by former Democratic Sen. George Mitchell also urges absentee voting. In it, Mitchell reminds listeners that Maine law does not require voters to give any special reason for voting absentee.

Republican Party Executive Director Mike Quatrano said local GOP candidates are getting the word out that absentee voting is an option, and there’s also a mailing program targeting people who’ve voted absentee and those who might lean Republican.

“There really shouldn’t be any reason why we don’t have a heavy turnout, at least on the Republican side,” Quatrano said.

As of the June primaries, the number of registered Maine voters totaled 914,435, according to election officials. Unenrolled voters comprised the largest share of the total, 331,222. There were 294,404 registered Democrats, 257,529 Republicans and 31,220 Green Independents.

Maine’s absentee ballot practices differ from neighboring New Hampshire, which limits absentee ballots to those who can’t get to the polls because they will be out of town, have to be at work, have a disability or will be observing a religious commitment.

The New Hampshire Republican Party on Thursday sent out an email blast urging voters to “avoid the lines” with absentee ballots, but the party quickly backtracked with a second email encouraging voters to read the law carefully to determine eligibility for absentee ballots.

In Maine, none of the absentee ballots can be counted until the polls close on Election Day, but the state has taken several steps to ease the burden on clerks.

The Nov. 1 deadline for requesting absentee ballots will allow clerks to avoid a last-minute flood of ballots as they prepare for Election Day, and clerks can petition to open the absentee ballot envelopes, check voters’ names off lists and feed them through voting machines early.

Those steps serve to ease the workload on Election Day, and that’s important because mistakes can happen when election workers are stretched thin, said Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin.

People who have a last-minute emergency like hospitalization can still vote via absentee ballot after Nov. 1 but they must attest under oath to their need to vote via absentee ballot, she said.


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