LEWISTON — With Lewiston’s mayoral runoff election looming, City Clerk Kathy Montejo warned absentee ballot voters not to sit on their ballots.

“In Maine, the absentee ballot has to be in our hands by 8 p.m. on election night,” Montejo said. “Not in the mail, not postmarked, not in the mail system — in our hands to process. If it’s not, it does not count and we don’t want voters to feel disenfranchised if there is a delay processing the mail.”

So far, Montejo said her staff has processed 1,810 requests for absentee ballots for the Dec. 8 runoff election between Mayor Bob Macdonald and challenger Ben Chin.

According to state law, residents can request absentee ballots before Thursday, Dec. 3.

But Montejo said that does not leave much time for residents relying on the U.S. Postal Service.

“But some people have to,” she said. “They may be out of town or whatever. Mailing it should be fine; they just need to allow a little time for processing.”

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Montejo said her staff received 2,199 requests for absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 municipal election. She said 2,000 were returned in time to be counted, but others came in too late for the Election Day deadline.

“They had different postmarks on them, but most were postmarked Nov. 2,” she said. “Voters probably put them in the mail on Saturday, Oct. 31, or maybe Monday. But they arrived in our office on Nov. 4, 5 and 6.”

Post office spokesman Steve Doherty said residents hoping to get their ballots delivered to the Lewiston city clerk before the election should put them in the mail no later than Saturday, Dec. 5. Montejo said she’d rather they mail them a day earlier, getting them in the mail by Dec. 4, just to be safe.

“But we don’t want people to think that if it’s postmarked by that day it will be counted,” she said. “It has to be in our hands to count.”

Residents can contact the clerk’s office at 207-513-3124, go to the office in City Hall or print an absentee ballot form on the City Clerk’s web page of www.lewistonmaine.gov, fill it out and return it to City Hall before Dec. 3.

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