Maine Primary Likely to Be Postponed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The state already voted on presidential candidates in March but was set to vote on local and U.S. Senate candidates June 9

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine is likely to move a primary set for June 9.

The state already voted on presidential candidates in March but has other local and U.S. Senate candidate races to decide.

"What's happened in Wisconsin is one of the worst-case scenarios," said Maine Secretary of State. Matt Dunlap, commenting on the Tuesday primary in that state.

Republican officials in Wisconsin pushed forward with the election amid a stay-at-home order, forcing thousands of residents to wait for hours in long lines outside polling stations. Others not willing to risk their health chose not to vote and stayed home.

"It's prudent to plan," Dunlap said. "What we really want to do is measure twice and cut once."

To that end, Dunlap's office has submitted various proposals to modify the primary to Gov. Janet Mills that he believes would help ensure as many Mainers as possible can exercise their ability to vote and avoid getting COVID-19.

"She can craft an order based around what she thinks is best," Dunlap explained.

Maine's legislature has already given Mills emergency powers to make changes to the primary by executive order.

On Tuesday, she was asked what her thoughts on potential primary changes were during an afternoon press briefing.

"We've been working on this issue for quite a while," she said. "I believe it is not going to be possible to hold the primary election on June 9 and we've been talking about rescheduling them to July 14 and taking every measure to minimize in-person contact."

According to Dunlap, some of those measures could include wider availability of absentee ballots or simplified ballots in which only contested races would be printed.

The deadline for registering by mail or preparing absentee ballots could also be changed.

"It's not just the election we're worried about, it's all the things before the election and all the clean-up after," Dunlap said.

Dunlap did say Maine would likely not switch to a "mail-in" election because Maine's voter registration laws and other regulations are not designed for an all-mail vote.

As for how COVID-19 might impact the November general election, Maine officials say it's too early to tell exactly but lessons learned from the primary will likely guide them.

The governor's office believes an official executive order modifying the June primary process is likely in the coming days.

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