Find answers to your commonly asked questions about voting and registering to vote in Maine.
Where do I go to vote?
Every town and city has its own places where people vote - called voting places or "the polls". You can call your town office or city hall to find out where you vote, or use the online Voter Information Lookup service . Voting places open between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., depending on the population of the town. Local officials can give you the exact opening time for your community. All voting places close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
What hours are the polls open?
For municipalities with a population of 500 or more – the polls can open between 6:00 am and 8:00 am.
For municipalities with a population of less than 500 – the polls can open between 6:00 am and 10:00 am.
Local officials can give you the exact opening time for your municipality.
All voting places close at 8:00 pm on Election Day.
How do I mark a ballot?
Each ballot tells you how to mark your choices. If you have a question, ask an election official. If you make a mistake, fold your ballot and give it to an election official. The election official will give you another ballot.
Can I have help voting?
Yes. If you need help reading or marking the ballot, you may ask a relative or friend for assistance. The helper does not have to be a voter or old enough to vote. An election official can also help you read or mark a ballot. However, your employer or union official cannot help you vote.
Do I need to go to the polls on Election Day to vote?
No. Any registered voter may cast an absentee ballot instead of voting in person at the voting place. You do not need to have a specific reason or be unable to vote at the polls on Election Day to use an absentee ballot. Call your town or city clerk for an application and assistance.
How do I locate and contact my municipal clerk?
You can find contact information for your town office or city hall on Maine.gov at http://www.maine.gov/local/.
What if I still have questions about registering or voting in Maine?
For more information contact:
Who can register and vote in Maine?
To register, you must be a United States citizen, at least 17 years of age, and have established a fixed and principal home in Maine.
To vote in the General Election, you must be registered to vote in the community where you reside, and be at least 18 years of age. A 17 year old may vote in a Primary Election if that person will be 18 by the General Election.
How do I register to vote?
You fill out a voter registration application. This simple card is available at your town office and other locations (see Where Do I Go to Register?).
Where do I go to register?
You can register to vote at your town office or city hall, through any Motor Vehicle branch office, in most state & federal social service agencies, or at voter registration drives. Completed voter registration cards may be hand delivered or mailed to your town office or city hall, or sent to the Secretary of State’s Office in Augusta.
Is there a deadline for registering?
There is no cut-off date for registering to vote in person at your town office or city hall. If you want to register to vote by mail or through a voter registration drive, the cut-off date is the close of business on the 21st day before the election. That date is Tuesday, October 16, 2012 for the General and Referendum Election.
What is absentee voting and how does it work?
Absentee voting allows you to cast a ballot without going to a voting place on Election Day.
Who may vote absentee?
Any registered voter may cast an absentee ballot instead of voting in person at a voting place on Election Day. You don’t need to have a specific reason or be unable to vote at the polls on Election Day to receive an absentee ballot.
When can I request an absentee ballot?
Absentee ballots may be requested beginning 3 months before Election Day and until the third business day prior to the election, unless special circumstances exist. Make your request early to allow enough time for the ballot to be mailed to you.
Is there a deadline to request an absentee ballot?
For the November 6, 2012 General and Referendum Election, the deadline to request an absentee ballot including a ballot voted in the presence of the clerk, is Thursday, November 1, 2012, unless the voter completes a special circumstances application, stating one of four allowable reasons for requesting an absentee ballot after this deadline. The four reasons are:
- An unexpected absence from the municipality during the entire time the polls are open on election day;
- A physical disability;
- An inability to travel to the polls if the voter is a resident of a coastal island ward or precinct; or
- An incapacity or illness that has resulted in the voter being unable to leave home or a treatment facility.
This special circumstances application must be signed by the voter. This application can be obtained from your municipal clerk or from the Secretary of State.
How do I apply for and receive an absentee ballot?
There are many ways to request an absentee ballot. Ballots must be requested from the municipal clerk where you are registered to vote -- unless you are a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S. or an uniformed service voter -- then you request your ballot from the Secretary of State.
You can make a telephone request for your own ballot, which will be mailed to the address you provide to the clerk.
You may also request your own ballot using the online absentee ballot request service.
You can make a written request by completing an absentee ballot application. Additionally, you can obtain a ballot for an immediate family member in this same way. A ballot will be mailed to the voter directly or to an immediate family member making the request. Your municipal clerk can tell you who is considered an immediate family member under the law.
NOTE: Ballots obtained by the voter or an immediate family member do not require witnesses, unless the voter receives assistance from another person in reading or marking the ballot.
Applications are available from the municipal clerk or online starting 3 months before each election.
Can I vote by absentee ballot in person somewhere?
Yes. You may vote absentee at the clerk’s office as soon as absentee ballots are available. Absentee ballots are available starting 30 to 45 days before the election at the municipal clerk’s office. You don’t need to complete a written application if you vote in person at the clerk’s office.
When must my voted ballot be returned to my municipal clerk?
To be counted, voted absentee ballots must be received by the municipal clerk by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Are there any other ways to receive an absentee ballot?
You may make a written request for a “third person” (someone other than the voter or the voter’s immediate family member) to obtain and hand-deliver an absentee ballot.
You must designate, in a written request or application, the specific third person who will handle and deliver the ballot. Only this designated third person may handle the absentee ballot.
Ballots cast in this way must be witnessed by either a notary public, a municipal clerk, a clerk of courts, or 2 other witnesses.
What are the laws governing the citizen initiative process?
The Maine Constitution, in Article IV, Part Third, sections 17, 18, 19, 20 and 22, provide the basic requirements for the statewide citizen initiative and people’s veto process. The Maine Election law, 21-A M.R.S.A., Chapter 11, Ballot Questions (sections 901 - 907), provides additional requirements for the Secretary of State in processing applications and drafting the ballot questions for citizen initiatives and people’s vetoes. The election page of the Secretary of State’s website provides additional information on the initiative process.
How does someone start a citizen initiative petition?
Six Maine registered voters (the “proponents”) submit an application to the Secretary of State for a citizen initiative, along with a draft of the statutory language they wish to adopt or amend.
Who decides the wording of the initiative legislation?
The Secretary of State forwards the initiative legislation to the Revisor of Statutes for review. The Revisor’s Office recommends changes that will put the legislation in the proper form for a Maine law (according to the drafting rules of the Maine Revised Statutes). The proponents have control over the final wording of the legislation, however, and are free to accept or reject the Revisor’s suggestions.
Who decides the wording of the ballot question?
The Secretary of State shall draft a ballot question only if a petition is certified by the Secretary of State as having a sufficient number of signatures and is not enacted without change by the Legislature at the session at which it is presented. The Secretary of State shall propose a ballot question to be submitted for public comment as provided in Title 21-A, section 905-A. After reviewing the public comment, the Secretary shall draft the ballot question that will appear on the ballot.
How is the petition form prepared?
The Secretary of State prepares a petition form, which includes the full text of the legislation being proposed, the initiative summary, a statement regarding freedom of citizen information and a fiscal statement. It also includes instructions for voters and circulators, common reasons signatures are rejected, the circulator’s verification and places for the municipal and State officials to certify the petitions.
How long can the proponents gather signatures for an initiative?
The date on which the Secretary of State provides the petition form to the proponents is the “date of issuance” of the petition. Proponents have 18 months from the date of issuance of the petition to gather signatures, however all signature submitted must be gathered within one year from the date the petition is filed with the Secretary of State. If the proponents do not submit the circulated petitions to the Secretary of State by the 18 month deadline, the application and petition expire, and proponents must start the process over if they wish to continue.
How many signatures are needed for the petition to be valid?
Proponents need to collect a quantity of signatures of registered Maine voters that equals at least 10% of the total number of votes cast for Governor at the last Gubernatorial Election, which is currently 57,277 valid signatures. The petition signatures must be certified by municipal officials in the municipalities where the petitions were circulated.
What is the annual deadline to submit a petition to the Secretary of State in order for the question to appear on that year’s ballot?
During the odd-numbered year, the deadline is the 50th day after the convening of the Legislature in the First Regular Session. During the even-numbered year, the deadline is the 25th day after the convening of the Legislature in the Second Regular Session. If that day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the deadline is 5:00 P.M. on the next business day.
What is the deadline for the Secretary of State to determine the validity of a petition?
The Secretary of State has 30 days from the date the proponents submit the petitions to the Office of the Secretary of State, in which to issue a determination of validity.
What happens after the Secretary of State determines a petition to be valid?
After the Secretary of State determines that a petition is valid, the petition is immediately transmitted to the Legislature for its consideration. The Legislature may either approve the legislation exactly as written by the proponents or the Legislature may disapprove the legislation. If the Legislature approves the legislation, it becomes law without the approval of the voters. If the Legislature fails to approve the legislation, then the ballot question is drafted and will be placed on the ballot in November of that year for consideration by the voters. The Legislature may adopt a competing measure that will appear on the ballot along with the related initiative.
If the voters approve an initiative question at a November election, when does the new law become effective?
Unless the legislation provides for a delayed effective date, an initiative approved by the voters becomes effective 30 days after the Governor proclaims the results of the election.
When do proponents or opponents of an initiative have to register as Political Action Committees (PACs) and begin reporting contributions and expenditures?
The laws governing PAC reporting are found in 21-A M.R.S.A., Chapter 13, Subchapter IV, Reports by Political Action Committees (sections 1051 through 1062-A). The Secretary of State has no jurisdiction over campaign finance reporting matters. Questions of this nature should be directed to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, which is the State entity that administers these laws.
Is the Legislature restricted at any point in the initiative process from making changes to laws governing the subject matter addressed in an initiative?
Neither the Maine Constitution nor the election laws bar the Legislature from making changes to the laws during the time an initiative petition is being circulated or after a law has been approved by the voters, nor are State Agencies barred from amending or adopting agency rules relating to an initiative, provided they have statutory authority to do so.
Are there restrictions on activities of State Agency personnel concerning a citizen initiative?
State Agencies should review 5 M.R.S.A., section 7056-A, which restricts political activities of classified and unclassified executive branch employees related to partisan candidate elections and, in some instances, to “measures”. The Bureau of Human Resources has periodically provided written memoranda on this issue, which may assist agencies in determining what activities are restricted. Additionally, the agency should review its internal policies or directives for guidance, and specific questions about restricted political activities should be discussed with the agency’s legal counsel.
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