Deadline approaching for requesting absentee ballots

HOULTON, Maine — With the Nov. 3 election right around the corner, Houlton Town Clerk Cathy O’Leary reminds residents that it is not too late to obtain a ballot to vote absentee.

Thursday, Oct. 29, is the final day residents can request an absentee ballot to take home.  However, because of an executive order by Gov. Janet Mills, residents can still come to the town office and cast their absentee ballots in person, O’Leary said.

“We have been extremely busy with absentee ballots,” she said. “We have pretty close to 800 already. I have never seen that many overall absentee ballots in my tenure here. I think the highest total we have ever had was around 700.”

O’Leary has served as Houlton’s town clerk for the past 30 years. She attributed the high number of absentee ballots to people’s concerns over the coronavirus. 

“Plus I think people really just want to avoid the lines,” she added.

Individuals who have yet to register to vote are encouraged to do so prior to the November election, to help cut down on long lines at the polls. Those who need to change their address are also asked to come in early and file the necessary paperwork.

“I expect there will be a lot of people and long lines, so if people can register ahead of time that would be ideal,” O’Leary said. 

No appointments are necessary for casting absentee ballots, the clerk said. The Houlton Town Office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. To accommodate those wishing to register, special hours have also been set aside for Thursday, Oct. 29, with the office open until 6 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 30, until 5 p.m.

Voting on Nov. 3 in Houlton will once again take place at the Gentle Memorial Building, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. However, instead of ballots being cast in the basement, as has traditionally been the case, this year the polls will be located inside the gymnasium. O’Leary said this move was made to allow for greater spaces among voting booths.

The portable voting booths must be sanitized every hour, and voters are encouraged to wear a mask. Volunteers at the polling station will also be required to wear a mask, she said. All pens used in the voting booths will be replaced after each ballot is cast.

In addition, a drop box has been placed outside the town office for people to deposit their absentee ballots.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience when voting this year,” she added. “We hope to keep everything running as smoothly as we can.”

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