We’ll come right out and say it: This campaign season was a disheartening slog. Too often, it brought out our worst impulses and insecurities, and pushed our divided nation further apart.

But all that fear and loathing could be brushed aside, for a few hours anyway, by the heavy turnout Tuesday at polls all over Maine.

As we write this a few hours before polls close, we don’t know how people voted in the U.S. Senate race, who will get the state’s Electoral College votes, or which party controls the Legislature.

At this writing, we don’t know whether voters encountered problems at the polls, or whether there was any trouble conducting a complete count of all the votes, here or in other states.

But we know this: Democracy is alive and well in Maine.

About 500,000 Maine residents already had voted by the time polls opened Tuesday morning using the well-run absentee ballot system built up over the years by municipal clerks.

That’s about half of the state’s total registered voters, and three-quarters of those who typically vote in a presidential election. With early-voting numbers like those, we were left wondering if hardly any ballots at all were left to be cast on Election Day.

We didn’t have to wonder for long. Mainers were lined up outside polling places before they opened Tuesday morning. Long though fast-moving lines were reported up and down the state throughout the day, in Portland, Augusta and Gardiner, to name just a few communities.

As early at 4:45 a.m., voters were lined up outside, in below-freezing temperatures, at a Waterville polling site. The Kennebunk town clerk told Maine Public that he expected somewhere around 90% voter turnout.

Looking at the enthusiasm at polls throughout the state Tuesday, it’s easy to see Maine beating its turnout from the last presidential election, in 2016, when 73% of registered voters cast a ballot, good for second best in the country.

Maine for years has set a high standard for voter turnout, in large part because the state employs the election tools available — such as no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration — to remove barriers to voting.

The 2020 campaign was not our country’s nor our state’s finest moment. There was an obscene level of spending on ads designed to spread fear and anger. There was reckless campaigning that ignored public health guidelines. There were hints of voter suppression and intimidation.

Still, record numbers of Maine voters cast a ballot before Election Day, and more still went to the polls on Tuesday.

Even after all the rancor, after having been pushed apart for months, Maine voters showed they can still agree on one thing: We all should have our voices heard.


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