Steven Gagnon, 18, receives a ballot and instructions from election worker Linda Boucher before voting at Lewiston City Hall on Wednesday. Gagnon, a student at Lewiston High School, said he finished his online classes for the day and decided to come and vote early. “I’m pretty busy with school and work, so while I have the opportunity I decided to come and vote,” he said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — People are voting early, which is a good sign for those working in the clerk’s office at City Hall.

Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said about 200 people on Monday and about the same on Tuesday came into Lewiston City Hall to vote early. “It has been a very busy, steady pace,” she said. “I am pleased that citizens are embracing this service.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In the run-up to the election, City Clerk Kathy Montejo has been rallying voters to take advantage of early voting and absentee voting, hoping it can alleviate long lines and safety concerns on Election Day.

So far, it seems to have caught on. In the first three days that early voting has been available at City Hall, the polling location has averaged about 200 voters each day. That’s on top of the roughly 7,600 residents who have begun returning absentee ballots, either through mail or to the city’s secure ballot drop box outside City Hall.

And while absentee ballots were just mailed last week, Montejo said Wednesday that 42% of those ballots have already been returned, including 1,144 ballots on Wednesday alone. There have also been about 200 ballots returned via the drop box each day, Montejo said.

On Wednesday, 18-year-old Steven Gagnon was at City Hall taking advantage of the early voting option.

Gagnon, a student at Lewiston High School, said he finished his online classes for the day and decided to vote early.


“I’m pretty busy with school and work, so while I have the opportunity I decided to come and vote,” he said, adding that his father, Francis Gagnon, had showed him the “ins and outs” of voting during the July primary. “This is my very first time voting on my own, so I wanted to come and take my time.”

After voting Wednesday, Trudy Welder said she wanted to vote early because she feels healthy now, and doesn’t know if that will be the case on Election Day.

“I wanted my vote to count,” she said.

Montejo said after three days, she can already say it’s been the most popular year for early voting in Lewiston.

“Residents are so appreciative of the ability to vote early in a quieter and slower paced setting,” she said. “We have offered this service for about 10 years but this certainly by far is the highest level of interest which is great.”

Part of Montejo’s push for early voting has centered on a capacity limit of 50 people per polling location on Election Day, a number that includes election staff.


Montejo said city officials, including police, would be meeting Wednesday to discuss crowd control and other safety measures for Election Day given concerns over turnout and the potential for long lines due to COVID-19 distancing.

Trudy Welder finishes making her choices while voting at Lewiston City Hall on Wednesday. “I’m feeling well today and who knows how I will feel on Election Dday, so I decided to vote early,” she said. “I wanted my vote to count.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“The message we’ve been trying to get out to all voters, but particularly the elderly and the disabled who are not able to stand in line for an extended period of time, is that there are several options available to voters,” she told the City Council on Tuesday.

She said the city has rented food lights in the past to help with safety for outdoor lines, and may do the same this year. Another topic will be concerns over voter intimidation efforts, which Montejo said will involve police officials.

As of last week, more than 277,000 Mainers had requested absentee ballots, which represents more than one-quarter of registered voters in Maine.

The upcoming election is unprecedented for several reasons, but Montejo said she’s never seen the level of interest from national media. She believes it’s due to the contested U.S. Senate race and Maine’s designation as the first state to conduct the presidential race with ranked-choice voting.

Last week, Montejo spoke with Time Magazine. This week: MSNBC, The New York Times and NPR.

Lewiston’s early polling location will 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, 22 and 27, with extended hours also occurring Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, and until 5 p.m. Oct. 30. It is closed on Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 12.

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