City, town clerks gearing up for heavy voter turnout

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SCARBOROUGH — Town and city clerks are anticipating heavy voter turnout, even before Election Day on Nov. 8.

That’s why they’re setting up specified places for voters to mark their ballots ahead of time.

Absentee ballots are already available, and, starting this week, residents of South Portland are allowed to come to City Hall to cast their votes. In Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth, residents can start casting their absentee ballots in person on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Those wishing to register to vote are also encouraged to do so well ahead of Election Day, according to the clerks. Registration must be done in person and all those registering must show both proof of residency and an ID.

At the Town Council meeting Wednesday, councilors noted that voting is expected to be heavy both before and on Election Day. Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina urged anyone with an interest to sign up to work the polls.

On Thursday morning, Town Clerk Yolande Justice reiterated the need for more poll workers than usual.

“We’re anticipating a large turnout and so hope to have 40 election workers per shift, which is a lot,” Justice said. “We’re planning for a big turn out, so if anyone is interested in helping out, they should call the clerk’s office.”

Justice said her office has already received more than 700 requests for absentee ballots – more than in the last general election. In fact, Justice is anticipating such a big interest in early voting that 35 percent of the total ballots she ordered for this election are absentee ballots.

Absentee voting in person in Scarborough will be held in the council chambers, which Town Council Chairman Bill Donovan said would displace the council until after the election.

South Portland City Clerk Emily Scully said her office has received just under 1,000 requests for absentee ballots, and absentee voting in person is now underway. Those wishing to vote prior to the election will do so in the lower conference room at City Hall, she said.

Scully said her office is expecting to receive between 6,000 and 7,000 absentee ballots, and there will likely be a “big rush to vote early” in the last couple weeks before Election Day. Like Justice, Scully said she would need more poll workers than usual to help with the heavy turnout expected.

She said anyone interested in helping out on Election Day should contact her office. “The more the merrier, really,” Scully said.

In Cape Elizabeth, Town Clerk Debra Lane said requests for absentee ballots have topped 700 and she’s expecting “long lines and congestion” at Town Hall prior to Election Day as people vote absentee in person. She said there has also been a lot of activity around voter registration.

Lane said she believes she has enough poll workers for Election Day, but is looking for volunteers willing to help out with absentee voting, which is available during regular Town Hall hours. Anyone wishing to help should contact her office.

Justice, Scully and Lane all said that, so far, they have not received any special requests for poll monitoring, or any questions about making sure the ballots are secure, although Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seems to be making an issue of voter fraud and concerns about the election being rigged.

“Everything is a public process,” Scully said. “Even the ballot testing is done in public and anyone can come watch. When you understand the election laws, you would know it would be very difficult to rig an election.”

Lane said blanket statements from the Trump campaign about the election being rigged “create unnecessary angst” for voters and those who “work so hard on the election and take it so seriously. It’s really unfair.”

Absentee voting is only allowed through Nov. 3.