AUGUSTA — Democrats participating in Maine’s presidential primary on Tuesday will see a lot more names on the ballot than active candidates.

Two additional withdrawals on Sunday and Monday mean the Democratic field has narrowed to five candidates: Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But there will be seven other names on the Democratic ballot in Maine, which is one of 14 states participating in the Super Tuesday primaries. That’s because the ballots were printed in late-December or early-January in order to comply with the federal deadline for sending absentee ballots to Mainers living abroad or serving in the military.

Unlike in most elections, when a vote for a withdrawn candidate is recorded as a “blank” during the final tally, local clerks and the Maine Secretary of State’s Office will still count votes cast for presidential primary candidates who have dropped out of the race.

As of Thursday evening, 56,146 registered voters had requested absentee ballots and 37,127 of those had been returned. And for Mainers who have already cast their votes by absentee ballot … well, they are stuck with their choice.

“If you have submitted it to the clerk, you have effectively voted,” said Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

This is the first time in two decades that Mainers are using a primary system to express their presidential preference. High turnout during Maine’s 2016 presidential caucuses led to confusion and hours-long delays at some locations. As a result, lawmakers voted last year to join the vast majority of states that use statewide presidential primary elections – as is already done for legislative, gubernatorial and congressional party contests – rather than the town meeting-style caucuses.

There has been scant polling in Maine about the Democratic contenders, although Sanders has been the presumed leader in Maine due, in part, to his landslide victory (with 64 percent of the vote) over Hillary Clinton during the 2016 caucuses.

A recent Colby College poll of roughly 350 Maine Democrats had Sanders in the lead at 25 percent support followed by Pete Buttigieg (16 percent), Bloomberg (14 percent), Biden (12 percent), Warren (9 percent), Amy Klobuchar (4 percent), Gabbard (3 percent) and Tom Steyer (2 percent).

But Biden’s rejuvenated campaign after the South Carolina primary last Saturday – combined with the subsequent withdrawals of Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar – is likely to affect voter behavior in Maine and other Super Tuesday states. Additionally, Tuesday is the first time that Bloomberg will be on the ballot.

On the Republican side, President Trump is the only candidate on the primary ballot.

Because Maine has “closed primaries,” only individuals registered as Democrats or Republicans can cast ballots in their respective party contests. Unenrolled voters can join a party at the polls, as can individuals registering to vote for the first time on Election Day. But registered Democrats, Republicans or Green Independent voters cannot change their party affiliation at the polls in order to participate in another primary.

All registered voters can cast ballots, however, on Question 1, which is a “people’s veto” effort organized by groups opposed to a new law on mandatory childhood vaccinations.

A “yes” vote on Question 1 would overturn the law and allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for religious or philosophical reasons. A “no” vote would keep the law on the books, thereby requiring vaccinations before children can attend school except when a medical professional grants a medical exemption.

Voters can find their polling place on the Maine Secretary of State’s website. Most polls in Maine open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Election results will posted on pressherald.com Tuesday night as soon as they become available.

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