READFIELD — Although last Thursday was the final day to pick up absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election, they were still trickling in Monday at the Readfield Town Hall, some dropped off by hand, others by the U.S. Postal Service. In Maine, where voter turnout is reliably among the highest in the nation, it appears that this year’s issues and candidates are enticing even more state residents than usual to cast ballots.

Town Clerk Robin Lint said in all, 609 absentee ballots were issued in her town. That’s nearly three times the amount she has issued in past election cycles.

As of Friday, 517 had been returned. The stack on her desk Monday morning appeared to have about three dozen in it, so she was willing to bet most, if not all, would be returned by the 8 p.m. Tuesday — Election Day — deadline.

Lint spent Monday morning arranging the polling place in the meeting room on the second floor of the Town Hall, complete with a waiting area, desks where voters can fill out their ballots, and a table on the stage where she and an election warden can keep an eye on the room.

“I expect it to be busy,” Lint said.

In Norridgewock, Town Clerk and Registrar of Voters Sharon Dodge said that town had received more than 500 absentee ballots by Monday, a record number. And for the first time ever, the town would be processing those votes during the day Tuesday, instead of after the close of polls, Dodge said.

Dodge said that despite the large number of absentee votes, she still expects a “huge turnout” Tuesday, mainly because of interest in the presidential race.

“I’m stressed today because I want to make sure I have everything in order,” Dodge said. “I believe that I’m ready. I am excited for results this year because I think it will be interesting, not just on the presidential race, but on every count. I think it could go either way for just about everybody and every referendum. I don’t see anything that looks clear-cut.”

In her 23 years as town clerk in Readfield and Mount Vernon, Lint said she’s never seen any trouble at the polling place, but she’s seen tempers flare after the results are in. She’s not expecting that kind of trouble this year, she said, nor is she expecting problems with tallying and reporting the vote totals in Readfield or anywhere else, because of the checks and balances in the system.

“I have 600-some ballots locked up in my vault downstairs,” she said. “The Election Board would notice if I was short in turning in my ballots.”

What’s more, she said, across Maine, it’s clear when someone changes registration because of a move or relocation inside state borders because the state’s voter registration system is connected, and clerks are notified. State voter registration systems aren’t connected federally, so notifications across state lines require a phone call.

As tough as the election season has been on clerks, it’s been no easier for voters.

Jake Burns, 21, a student at Colby College in Waterville who is from Falmouth, said Monday that he already had cast his vote for Hillary Clinton via absentee ballot.

“Unfortunately, I think it came down to the lesser of two evils,” he said of the presidential race. “This election cycle set a new low as far as images of the candidates go. They’re just both so strongly disliked.”

Burns said he’s an independent who originally supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary but would have voted for Republican Mitt Romney, had the 2012 GOP nominee chosen to run for president again. The election cycle has been frustrating, he said.

“I think we’re setting a lot of scary precedents, especially with the disregard in the campaigns for fact-based discourse,” Burns said.

He’s not the only one to think so.

For Mark Brewer, political science professor at the University of Maine, this election campaign is shaping up to be one of the worst in U.S. history.

“It’s one of the top five,” said Brewer, who has studied U.S. presidential election campaigns. “2016 is unique in a lot of ways and in ways that are not good.”

While it has been both long and expensive, what makes this one stand out is the willingness of one of the presidential candidates to say things that other candidates have been unwilling to say, he said.

Among the factors that make this year’s election stand out is the pervasiveness of campaign messaging across all platforms.

Marie and Mark Hassleman, of China, said that in the different places they’ve lived, they take turns registering as Republican or Democrat so they can receive materials from both parties to help inform their decisions. They wouldn’t say Monday whether they’re leaning a particular way in the presidential race, but rather that it would be a last-minute decision made at the polls.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over,” said Marie Hassleman, 63. “There’s been so much negativity. I don’t even want to turn the TV on because of all the negativity.”

But the negativity is not new.

Brewer’s top five worst elections included that of 1800, in which Thomas Jefferson challenged the incumbent president, John Adams.

“That was pretty nasty,” Brewer said.

In it, Jefferson’s camp lobbed accusations that Adams was “a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams and his supporters in turn branded Jefferson a libertine, an atheist and a coward and suggested at a time when only white men had the right to vote that Jefferson was not white. Following the election, the author of the hermaphrodite charge turned on Jefferson and published stories of Jefferson’s affair with a female slave. That allegation eventually proved to be true, with DNA testing showing that Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemmings, a slave in his household, Brewer said.

Other elections have been freighted with charges of fraud and dirty dealing, and some in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have involved fraud at the hands of corrupt political machines, he said.

Even so, he said, the U.S. system has worked well over the years.

“For the most part,” Brewer said, “it has guaranteed us a selection between two candidates that are fit for the job.”

Staff writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

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Twitter: @JLowellKJ