BANGOR – Tuesday’s primary election will bring with it a new set of challenges caused by COVID-19.
Absentee ballot numbers are up but there’s no telling what things will look like at polling places across the state.
“Bangor’s a large community, so a lot of people have already voted absentee,” said Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodiwn. “We’ve had over 5,000 absentees so we’re hoping that’s a sign that tomorrow will be a slower day for us.”
According to Goodwin, those 5,000 absentee ballots in Bangor are up from a few hundred usually seen in a primary like this. A similar trend statewide.
“As of Friday we had about 193,000 absentee ballots out,” said Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. “We’ve been pushing it, we’ve been encouraging people to vote by absentee ballot now for some time. Ever since the emergency was declared back in the middle of March and we began looking at what the primary is going to look like.”
Dunlap says it hard to tell whether those nearly 200,000 absentee ballots are on top of in-person voting or replacing it. He seems to think the latter.
“I suspect that it’s probably going to be fairly light,” said Dunlap. “I think we will have some pockets of heavier turnout where there’s some local issues.”
No matter the turnout, polling places are prepared. Dunlap said the state allocated about $121,000 in federal money to purchase personal protective equipment for poll workers.
Depending on the turnout there may be long wait times.
“Come protected,” said Goodwin. “Wear your rain coat, bring your umbrella cause you might be outside. We really can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow cause this is all unknown.”