LEWISTON — Early voting will begin next week at City Hall, as nearly one-quarter of registered voters in the city have requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election.

Ever since the state was faced with holding elections during the pandemic, city officials have pushed early voting and absentee voting as safe and effective alternatives, hoping it can alleviate long lines and safety concerns on Election Day.

The Lewiston City Clerk’s office will open its early polling place Monday, Oct. 5, and operate Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., until Oct. 30. The city will host extended hours until 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Oct. 22, and Oct. 27, with extended hours also occurring Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, and until 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

The clerk’s office has operated an early polling location in the City Council chamber for several years, but it has grown in significance in the age of COVID-19.

For City Clerk Kathy Montejo and her staff, the run-up to the presidential election has been about ensuring options for voters and readying for an unprecedented election. Due to the high number of absentee ballots being used, and with concerns over the U.S. Postal Service deliveries, the city installed a ballot drop box outside City Hall earlier this year.

“Voters love the option to come into City Hall and vote their absentee ballot in person because it is the best of both worlds in their mind — they get to submit their ballot directly into the ballot box and not worry about the mail system and they get to vote in person in a smaller, and many times calmer setting than at the polls,” she said. “We are expecting a large, steady turnout and interest in this process which kicks off Monday.”


As of Tuesday, the office had also fielded 6,311 absentee ballot requests, which Montejo said are scheduled to be mailed Thursday morning. The figure represents 23% of Lewiston’s 27,672 registered voters.

Montejo said the city has received the ballots from the state printer and is preparing envelopes with the ballots and instruction insert. She said the U.S. Postal Service will pick up the ballots.

“We will probably have 15 large full mail totes so they have offered to send over a truck to pick them up which is a huge help to us,” she said.

During the July 14 primary, the city processed more than 4,000 absentee ballots and roughly 1,600 cast at the polls, numbers that Montejo called a complete “flip-flop” from the voting breakdown in 2018.

The changes in elections and required safety precautions during the pandemic have also left communities scrambling to come up with funding for emergency purchases.

The City Council on Tuesday was set to accept a $274,000 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life for election needs, which Montejo said is meant “to ensure adequate staffing and supplies for safe voting in the pandemic.”


Montejo said the funding will serve several functions, but will especially allow the city to enhance voter education and outreach efforts leading up to Nov. 3. She said some of that is discussing voter expectations on Election Day.

Because only 50 people are allowed in a single polling location at one time, including election workers, it will increase wait times and represent a “huge change for voters statewide,” Montejo said.

“All other voters will have to wait in lines outside,” she said. “Voters are not used to having to do that and if it rains, it will not be fun. We are afraid that elderly or disabled voters will not be able to stand in the lines outside and will leave. This of course is not what anyone wants to see happen.”

Those concerns are pushing clerks like Montejo to encourage early voting and absentee voting, and she said at least some of the grant funds will go toward the expanded early voting hours. The city had initially budgeted for a two-week period, meaning the funding will allow the city to “double the amount of time offered, and to expand for evening and weekend hours.”

Montejo said voters should be checking the city’s election website frequently for updates. Sample ballots were uploaded Tuesday, she said.

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