The journey of your absentee ballot

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 8:00am

    Maine is now accepting applications for absentee ballots which become available the first week in October. Since we have explained the application process, absentee voters want to know what happens to their ballots when their municipal office receives them. The short answer: They are kept under lock and key.

    While each town will differ slightly, absentee ballots are kept in a place accessible only by the town clerk or registrar of voters. Town clerks Donna Climo of Southport, Michelle Farnham of Boothbay Harbor, Andrea Lowery of Boothbay, Claudia Coffin of Edgecomb and Linda Perry of Wiscasset all said they follow the Maine Secretary of State’s guidelines on processing ballots.

    Said Farnham, “As ballots come in I batch them and voters are entered into the system to know they voted. The day before the election, we are processing the ballots, but we don't have any tallies until we close on Election Day because they get included in the tally at the end of Election Day.”

    Lowery said ballots are received, voters are entered into the Central Voter Registration system with envelopes still sealed and are locked up until processing. Boothbay will be doing two days of early processing for absentee ballots. “In July we had so many and it took up until the evening to do them, so we're trying to break it up into two days right in this office.”

    When early processing begins, the ballots are opened and dropped into a box unfolded so the clerk cannot see the ballot’s contents, said Farnham. After ballots are shifted from the box through the voting machine, they are locked back up for safe keeping, said Lowery.

    Despite concerns over timeliness of the Postal Service, guidelines still dictate absentee ballots be submitted by 8 p.m. Nov. 3, Election Day. Climo said postmarks are not taken into account and ballot envelopes received after the deadline are not opened and are considered void. Perry said there may be guidelines from the Secretary of State in the future on how late ballots are treated. “We can't judge whether it should have been here or not and we can't say it should take x-amount of days. It’s something we just can’t know.”

    Farnham said there will be a point at which clerks and registrars will receive guidance on a cutoff date when applications will no longer be accepted and ballots no longer sent through the mail. Farnham also said in-person early voting is allowed until Nov. 2. and ballots, whether received on time or rejected due to being late, are still updated into Central Voter Registration so the government will have access to the data.

    Said Coffin, “And there are other reasons ballots sometimes aren't accepted particularly if the back of the envelope isn't signed.”

    Climo said she encourages absentee voters to have quick turnaround on filling out and posting their ballots once they receive them in the mail. “The postal service – in Maine, as well as nationwide – is aware of the importance of the ballots, and are instructed to recognize the election logos on the envelopes of ballots. The ballots get special handling at points throughout the postal service route.”

    Boothbay Harbor is set to receive a ballot drop box by the end of the week which will be installed and ready by October, said Farnham. Edgecomb and Boothbay are pursuing drop boxes. Farnham noted that drop boxes are only accessible to town clerks or registrars, by state guidelines.

    All clerks ask voters to call with any questions or concerns.

    Andrea Lowery
    7 Corey Lane
    PO Box 106
    Boothbay, ME 04537
    Phone: (207) 633-2051
    Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Boothbay Harbor,
    Michelle Farnham
    11 Howard St.
    Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
    Phone: (207) 633-3671
    In-person appointment scheduled by phone.
    Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Claudia Coffin
    PO Box 139
    Edgecomb, ME 04556
    Phone: (207) 882-7018
    Telephone only.
    Monday 7 to 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday 1 to 5 p.m.
    Donna Climo
    PO Box 149
    Southport, ME 04576
    Phone: (207) 633-6311
    Telephone only.
    Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Monday evenings, 6 to 8 p.m.


    Linda Ellen Perry

    51 Bath Road

    Wiscasset, ME 04578

    Phone: (207) 882-8200

    General assistance hours are by appointment only on Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.
    Regular hours are Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.