Election officials reported low voter turnout statewide Tuesday for congressional and legislative primary elections, while certain local races drew crowds in select towns.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said turnout “seems light across the state” during a visit to the Portland Expo polling place late Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday evening that turnout appeared to remain light at polling places throughout the state, though an official count won’t be available right away.

Final election results were not available at press time. Up-to-the minute results will be posted at pressherald.com.

While most of the party primaries were uncontested, voters had a chance to weigh in on contested Republican primaries in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts and about two dozen contested legislative primary races across the state.

They included a three-way Democratic primary in Cape Elizabeth, a Democratic primary to fill an open seat in part of Portland and a Democratic primary in Waterville where abortion rights were cited as a key issue.


Bellows attributed the “extraordinarily low” turnout to the fact that most State House primary races had only one candidate running. “Traditionally, we see higher turnout in races where there is a contested primary,” Bellows said.

Bellows issued reminders before Tuesday’s election that this was the first semi-open primary for state races under a new law that allows unenrolled voters to cast ballots in party primaries that were once open only to each party’s membership.

“We’re continuing to educate the unenrolled voters that they can participate,” Bellows said. “We’re still trying to get the word out because a lot of unenrolled voters who call themselves independents have been trained to think that they can’t participate on primary day. That’s changed.”

Max Sanchi votes in the Portland Expo on Tuesday. Poll workers said turnout had been very light at the polling location, and Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said that voter turnout has been very light throughout the state. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The number of absentee ballots cast foreshadowed the quiet election day turnout. Of the 34,365 absentee ballots that were issued statewide, a total of 29,174 had been returned as of 3 p.m. Maine has about 951,000 registered active voters.

Bellows said she had not heard of any polling problems Tuesday but said it’s not uncommon for there to be some small technical issues that election officials at local precincts are equipped to work through.

“There are multiple controls and checks and balances in the election, so when there is a snafu or a small problem, it can be easily remedied and it doesn’t impact the vote itself,” she said.



In contrast to Portland, voting was brisk Tuesday in Cumberland, where residents considered a contentious referendum on whether to approve a $53.5 million project that would include the construction of new school buildings and a $3 million turf field.

One man exiting the polls signaled his opposition to the project by wearing a white T-shirt with black text that read “F- Ur Turf.”

Suzanne Callan, 44, said she voted to have her voice heard on the school issues.

“I have children in the school system and I want to guarantee their future not for this year or the next, but for years to come,” said Callan, who worked for L.L. Bean. “I want to set them and their teachers up for success.”

Brian Grabes, 49, also noted the school budget as his main priority for voting.


“In our town, the schools are the most important issue. There’s overcrowding in the schools, and we need a better long-term plan for it,” Grabes said.

Town Clerk Jenn Doten said nearly 250 people had voted by 9 a.m. and 1,300 residents had requested absentee ballots. Doten could not be reached later Tuesday for an updated turnout number. Cumberland has fewer than 7,000 registered voters.


Election clerks at the Portland Expo knew it was going to be a light day when only 37 ballots were cast in the first hour.

Harlan Baker, a former state representative and longtime election clerk, said he anticipated that the turnout was “going to be slow,” though he predicted that it might pick up after work hours.

“November is going to be an entirely different story,” he said, referring to the upcoming general election and presidential contest.


City Clerk Ashley Rand said around 7:30 p.m. – with a half hour left for voting – that most of Portland’s 11 polling places didn’t see more than 300 to 400 voters Tuesday. The city has about 50,700 registered voters and saw 14% turnout for the presidential primary in March, another low-turnout election.

Annie Wadleigh, 62, a professor at the Maine College of Art and Design who lives in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood, said she came out to vote because she “feels it’s my duty as a Maine and Portland citizen.”  She voted in favor of the city’s $161.4 million school budget.

Michael Schlotterbeck also voted to approve the budget. He said he “assumes the folks setting up the budget know what they’re doing.” Schlotterbeck, 25, is a paralegal who “tries not to skip an election.” He said it was pretty easy to decide who to vote for because most of the races were uncontested.

Catherine Nekoie, a 59-year-old hair stylist and small business owner, lingered outside of the Expo holding a clipboard after she voted. She’s running for City Council in District 2, and as of 8:40 a.m., she had 18 out of the 75 signatures required for candidacy.

In Brunswick, the Junior High School lot filled Tuesday morning as residents got in their votes before heading to work. Town Clerk Fran Smith said the voters have been coming in steadily, but she didn’t anticipate high turnout.

“It’s a tough election to predict, (but) 4,000 votes would be a high number,” she said. That would be a little more than 20% of the town’s 17,000 voters.


David Bann, a 63-year-old retiree who volunteers and teaches at a local church, said nothing in particular brought him out to vote at this election.

“I always try to vote,” Bann said. “It’s important to participate.”

Lauren Wille, 46, a lawyer, brought her nine-year-old son, Homer Dawson, with her to vote.

“I have a son in school, so it’s important to vote on the school budget and to model that voting is important,” she said.

Staff Writers Ella Spitz, Dana Richie and Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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