Nov. 4—In this final week before the midterm elections, multiple states have seen increases in efforts to intimidate voters and election officials, including armed "poll watchers" loitering around early voting drop boxes in Arizona, activists frightening voters at an early polling station in Texas, and election workers being stalked and shadowed in multiple cities across North Carolina.
But not here in Maine.
The secretary of state's office said Friday afternoon that there had been no indication of any sort of organized effort to disrupt the vote or intimidate voters and election workers. There had been one recent incident in Brunswick that is under investigation by that office's Enforcement Division, a branch of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that occasionally takes on other law enforcement duties, but no details were available.
"There are charges pending so I cannot disclose anything further at this time," said Emily Cook, spokesperson for Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine, which works to ensure election integrity and citizen engagement, likewise has seen few signs of trouble.
"Organized efforts to disrupt the electoral process, especially groups fueled by 'the Big Lie,' have been slow to trickle into Maine, though we take nothing for granted," said the group's executive director, Anna Kellar. "We are seeing more ballot inspectors and poll watchers, and these activities have been a bit time-consuming for election officials, though they have rarely risen to the level of disruption — at least not so far."
"We haven't seen anything that suggests that an effort to disqualify ballots en masse is underway," Kellar added.
Absentee ballot requests have already substantially exceeded the last midterm and Maine gubernatorial election in 2018. But the number is still well below the record level set during the 2020 presidential election year, which occurred in the midst of the pre-vaccine phase of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 532,272 absentee ballots were issued in Maine.
The secretary of state's office reported that as of Friday morning, 249,865 absentee ballots had been requested, of which 49.5 percent were by registered Democrats, 23.7 percent by Republicans, and the rest by the unenrolled or minor party members.
That number exceeds the total of 196,710 requested ballots in 2018.
The party breakdowns indicate Democrats have a slight absentee advantage over their Republican rivals in comparison with both 2018 — when those numbers were 43 and 28 percent — and 2020, when they were 46.7 and 24 percent. A total of 205,251 of this year's absentee ballots have been returned, or 82.1 percent of those requested to date.
As of Thursday, absentee ballots cannot be provided to voters except under special circumstances.
Absentee ballots already provided to voters must be returned by the time polls close Tuesday so it is too late to be sure they will arrive in time by mail. Voters in possession of an absentee ballot who want to ensure that it gets counted are encouraged to drop it off at their local town office or deposit it in a secure ballot drop box, if available, by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the secretary of state's office.
While Maine officials are not anticipating voting disruptions, final results of Maine's U.S. House race in the 2nd Congressional District between Democrat Jared Golden, Republican Bruce Poliquin, and independent Tiffany Bond may not be known until the following week. That's because Maine uses ranked-choice voting for federal races with more than two candidates.
If no candidate in the hotly contested race gets over 50 percent of the vote after the initial count, the ballots will have to be transferred to Augusta for tabulation. And, because Friday, Nov. 11 is a state and federal holiday, tabulations of the second choices of the third-place candidate's voters will not be done until the following week, Cook said.