With a hotly contested presidential election, congressional and legislative contests and statewide ballot questions expected to drive turnout, voters in central Maine will also make important local decisions at the ballot box on Tuesday.

In Kennebec County, voters will choose either incumbent Sheriff Ryan Reardon or challenger Ken Mason and pick a new probate judge and a new county commissioner. Council and school board seats are up for grabs in Augusta, Gardiner, Hallowell and Winthrop, and there are a few local referendums to be decided.

Nearly 25 percent of all registered voters in Maine requested absentee ballots, which would break the state record set in 2008, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. In towns like Somerville, Farmingdale, Waterville and Fayette, clerks have reported heightened interest in early voting, and state officials are expecting high turnout on Election Day. Augusta Clerk Roberta Fogg said there were lines throughout the day last week with people voting early.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in off-year elections or ones that don’t have controversial questions, turnout can bottom out near 10 percent. Maximum turnout, he said, fluctuates depending on the election, but he said they are projecting between 65 and 70 percent turnout of all voting age Mainers for this election.

“The presidential cycles are always our heaviest turnout,” Dunlap said. He said the projections are similar to what was expected in 2008, when Barack Obama defeated U.S. Sen. John McCain. Races including an incumbent see a slight drop in turnout.

Dunlap said campaign rhetoric has been around as long as presidential campaigns have existed, but the effect the rhetoric has on voter turnout is not easily quantified.

“The rhetoric is nothing new, but it’s hard to calculate,” Dunlap said. “It’s how the voters react remains to be seen.”

His office is also dealing with the frustrations associated with those who are calling into question the fairness of the election. But Dunlap was assertive in saying the system is “just that tight, and we have 503 clerks in complete control.”

Clerks have expressed concern, and it’s a concern Dunlap shares, that the “election is rigged” rhetoric may keep people from exercising their right to vote. Election officials know the process of counting votes and the chain of command, and Dunlap has every confidence in the system.

“We have to maintain the integrity of what we do and keep fighting the good fight,” Dunlap said.

Statewide, voters will choose legislators and decide on six ballot questions. Those who live in the 1st Congressional District will decide between U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, and Republican Mark Holbrook. Those in the 2nd District will choose between Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, and Democrat Emily Cain.

Polls open throughout central Maine at different times with most municipalities starting at 8 a.m. All polls close at 8 p.m.

Races and issues topping the ballot across central Maine include these:

• In Augusta’s Ward 3 city council race, Stan Koski, Harold Elliott and Jarody are battling for the seat being vacated by Councilor Patrick Paradis due to term limits. Three candidates — Mark O’Brien, Corey Wilson and James Paulette — are vying for two at-large spots on the Augusta council. The one contested school board race pits Edward Hastings vs. Holly Kiidli. Augusta voters will vote to approve or deny $6 million for renovations and repairs at the city’s Hartford Fire Station and $1.3 million for street and sidewalk improvements, including Commercial Street and Cross Hill Road.

• In China, seven candidates are vying for three seats on the Board of Selectmen. Incumbents Joann Austin, Neil Farrington and Robert MacFarland face off against challengers Albert Althenn,Wayne Chadwick, Jeff LaVerdiere and Raymond Robert. There are also a number of local ballot questions involving changes to municipal code standards, land proposals and more.

• In Clinton, the town ballot includes two articles asking voters to authorize the state to issue liquor licenses; one would authorize agency liquor stores to sell every day, and the other would authorize them to sell every day but Sunday.

• In Gardiner, there are seven candidates for three spots on the Gardiner City Council: Jonathan Ault, William Barron, Maureen Blanchard, Timothy Cusick, Matthew Marshall, George Trask and Maryann White.

• In Hallowell, incumbent Phil Lindley is running for re-election to his Hallowell City Council seat representing Ward 3 against Kara Walker. Hallowell voters will also vote on whether to adopt a new City Charter, which includes changes in the term limits for the mayor and councilors and a new way to appoint the police and fire chiefs.

• In Monmouth, voters will decide whether to expand the downtown TIF district by nearly 100 acres. The plan would add five empty lots to the district, expanding its total area by almost 100 acres and creating more opportunities for the town to shelter tax income that can be used for economic development purposes.

• In Skowhegan, voters will decide if they want to continue electing their town clerk, town treasurer and road commissioner, or if they want to have them appointed by the town manager. In addition, residents of Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54 will be asked to approve a referendum bond amounting to $1.6 million to replace and repair roofs on seven of the eight schools in the district.

• In Waterville, there are two contested races for a pair of open seats on the City Council. Lauren Lessing, a Democrat, faces off against Christopher S. Smith, an unenrolled candidate, for City Council, Ward 3, while in Ward 5, Nicholas Champagne, a Republican, is up against Zachary William Whittemore, a Democrat. On the Waterville Board of Education for Ward 5, Democrat Tiffany Y. Laliberty is seeking re-election to her seat against Republican Joel Dyer. However, Dyer said Friday that he would not serve on the seat if elected, because he’s been hired to work at Mid-Maine Technical Center, creating a conflict with the elective position.

• In Winthrop, three people — Margaret Cook, Joseph Pietroski and Jane Precourt — are running for two spots on the Winthrop school board.

• A special election is being held to decide who’ll be the next Kennebec County Sheriff. Ryan Reardon, a Democrat, was chief deputy under former sheriff Randall Liberty for two years and was appointed interim sheriff after a battle between the Kennebec County Democratic Committee and Gov. Paul LePage over who should fill Liberty’s position. Ken Mason, the chief deputy at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, originally submitted his name to the committee for consideration.

The committee sent only Reardon’s name to the governor’s office, starting a standoff between LePage and the committee. Mason ultimately decided to withdraw his name from consideration and instead seek the position in November, running as an independent.

• There is a special election to fill the spot on the probate bench vacated after the September death of Judge James Mitchell, who was probate judge for 37 years. Mitchell’s widow, Democrat Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, is being challenged by Republican Kevin Sullivan and Libertarian C.H. “Skip” Spurling.

The part-time position, which pays $33,234 annually, handles disputed estates of deceased people, adoptions, guardianships and conservatorships of disabled adults, and custody of children whose parents cannot care for them in cases that do not go through the district court child protective system.

• Longtime Manchester selectman Jeremy Pare, an independent, is challenging Democratic incumbent Patsy Crockett for her District 1 seat on the Kennebec County Commission. Crockett was appointed to the seat by LePage in February to serve out the term of District 1 Commissioner Beverly Daggett, who died in September 2015. District 1 consists of Augusta, Chelsea, China, Manchester, Sidney, Vassalboro and Windsor.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ