One in a frequent series of stories examining Maine’s voting system.

High voter turnout and high demand for absentee ballots left some Maine voting places short on ballots during the state’s two most recent statewide primary elections, in March and July.

Those shortages and others around the country have left some worried that Maine may not have enough ballots for voters to use on Election Day in November.

State and local election officials say they are taking precautions and preparing for the possibility that ballots could run low or even run out. But they are also urging voters who have requested an absentee ballot to use that ballot and to do so carefully to avoid mistakes.

Here’s what you need to know about ballots in Maine:

How many ballots did the state have printed for November?

1,113,000 ballots were printed. This is based on 100 percent of all active voters as of Aug. 1, 2020. Following the July primary there were approximately 1.06 million registered voters in Maine.

What happens if my polling place runs out of ballots?

If a polling place runs out of ballots on Election Day they can request permission from the Secretary of State’s Office to make photocopies of blank ballots.

Because of a high demand for absentee ballots, a surge in new and changed voter registrations during the primaries in March and July, several polling places ran out of ballots. In Portland’s Deering High School polling station election officials had to photocopy more than 600 ballots for primary voters in March.

Does a photocopied ballot still work in the voting machines?

No. Photocopied ballots must be counted by hand, and if clerks have a large number of them this can slow things down on Election Day.  These ballots will also cause a delay if the races that are decided by ranked-choice voting need to go to a second round of tabulation in Augusta, or if there is a close race and a recount is requested.

“Photocopied ballots cannot be run through the tabulator, which can slow the counting process not only on Election Night but in any subsequent handling of the ballots, such as a RCV tabulation or recount,” said Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, in an email.

What can I do if I make a mistake on my absentee ballot?

If you make a mistake on your absentee ballot you need to bring the ballot to your local election official and request a replacement ballot.

What do I do if I make a mistake when I’m voting at the polls?

You will need to alert a polling place worker that you have made a mistake marking your ballot and they will help you get a replacement ballot.

What if I make a mistake on my replacement ballot?

You will be allowed to request another replacement ballot, but don’t keep making mistakes. Under state election law, you are only allowed to receive two replacement ballots.

Do the clerks have to notify me if a mistake on my ballot causes it to be rejected?

Local election officials have been given specific guidance from the Secretary of State’s office that they should make a “good faith” effort to contact voters by phone or email within 24 hours if an absentee ballot is rejected because of an error made by the voter.

But this will become more difficult for clerks to achieve as Election Day approaches. It’s also one of the reasons election officials are urging voters to return their absentee ballots as quickly as possible, as that will allow more time to address any problems with rejected ballots.

Do you have a question about Maine’s election system or how your vote will be counted? Send it to [email protected]

 

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