Making Democracy Work

Effects of Coronavirus on Elections & Civic Engagement

 

We face uncertain times but one thing will never change: elections must go on. Even during a crisis. 

Offering an introduction to online research tools available to the public, we'll discuss how corporate interests shape our lives. We'll also touch on candidates, political committees, issue committees, party committees, lobbyists -- the whole gambit.   

WHEN: Wed, May 27th, noon

Click here to register.

We know that you probably have questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting upcoming elections. We will keep this page updated with information as we learn more. If you don’t see an answer here, you can contact us at on Facebook or Twitter.
 

  1. Will there be a primary in June? What about the November election?
    1. The governor has signed an Executive Order to move the June primary to the new date of July 14th. The order allows for absentee ballot applications up to and including Election Day. It also extends the deadline for qualifying contributions under the Maine Clean Election Act to May 19, 2020.
    2. The November election date is set by the constitution, and cannot be moved. There has always been a national election on schedule - even when America found itself torn apart during the Civil War. The American electoral system is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we must ensure everyone can use it to make their voices heard, even in the midst of a crisis. We must continue to ensure that elections are administered fairly and in a way that protects access to voting for every eligible American. This is a real goal we can accomplish; and on the other side of this crisis, when we look back and see that even amidst a global pandemic American democracy did not falter, we will be stronger for it.
  1. What if we’re still needing to isolate / quarantine during the primary election?
    1. It is imperative for state election officials to address voters’ and poll workers’ fears by emphasizing and facilitating absentee voting and voting by mail. To hold an election that ensures access to voting and also keeps people safe during this pandemic includes moving to as much vote by mail as possible.
    2. We also need to keep polling places open for voters who need them. We can do this in ways that protect both poll workers and voters who chose to vote in person. Keeping polling places open that avoid concentrating voters, crowding, and lines will be important. States are experimenting with curb-side voting.
    3. We will have the benefit of seeing how other states handle elections in the coming months and what they do right and wrong. This will help policy makers and voters in Maine.
  1. Who has the authority to change the election procedures?
    1. The Legislature’s parting act was to temporarily give Governor Janet Mills more power over elections, towns, and schools. An omnibus bill passed March 17 said she can take “any reasonable administrative actions” to ensure as many voters as possible are able to participate in the July 14 primaries — including an expansion of absentee voting.
    2. Emergency powers are subject to reconsideration and renewal after 30 days.
    3. Local officials have the ability to delay municipal elections. They must give notice and reschedule. Section D3.
  1. What is going on nationally?
    1. LWVUS put out a report on March 16th officially calling on all states to expand no-excuse absentee voting and mail-in ballots for the duration of the 2020 election cycle (Maine already has these provisions).
    2. On March 27, President Trump signed the CARES Act into law. Included is $400 million in federal grants to help states conduct elections during the COVID-19 crisis. This money is intended to increase registration opportunities and the ability to Vote-by-Mail, as well as provide funding for polling place staffing. The grants made available to states require a 20% match from each state, which some states including Maine have expressed concerns about being able to meet.
    3. On May 12, House Democrats released their proposal for a second major stimulus bill. Among its many election-related provisions, the bill includes: $25 billion for USPS and $3.6 billion for elections, a nationwide 15 days early voting period, postage paid absentee ballots mailed to all voters in emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and online voter registration and same-day registration in every state. The bill also waives the state match component of EAC grants mandated in the CARES act passed in March.
  1. Does Maine need to make changes to adjust to heavier-than-normal absentee voting by mail?
    1. LWVME recently released our report on Universal Vote-by-Mail. Though written before the current crisis, many of our recommendations still hold true, including:
      • Maine’s election system should protect our current range of choices.
      • Voters should be able to track ballots, and election workers should notify voters if there are errors on a ballot in time for them to receive a replacement.
      • The state should consider covering return postage and provide secure drop boxes for ballots to be returned.
      • The state should consider more proactive outreach to eligible voters in the weeks before the election.
  1. How do I request an absentee ballot if I don’t have the form / can’t leave my house?
    1. On the Secretary of State’s website, there is a form you can fill in online. You can also print it and mail it in. Click this link to access.
    2. You can also request an absentee ballot by phone from your clerk.
    3. You can request an absentee ballot for an immediate family member.
    4. Requests for absentee ballots for the July 14th primary are being accepted now. 
    5. Ballots may not be mailed to voters until mid-June, so don't worry if it doesn't come right away.
    6. On April 10, Gov. Mills signed an Executive Order to move the primary to July 14th. The order allows for absentee ballot applications up to and including Election Day. Absentee ballots may be made in writing or in person. Absentee ballot requests received within 3 months before June 9 remain valid for July 14.
  1. How do people register to vote if they’re social distancing?
    1. Currently, it is possible to register to vote by mail or in person.
    2. You can now download and print a voter registration card from your home. Completed voter registration cards, along with necessary documentation, may be hand delivered or mailed to your town office or city hall, or sent to the Secretary of State's Office in Augusta. Click this link for instructions on filling out the card. *New voters who register by mail must provide a copy of certain identity documents with the completed registration form. The mail-in registrant may submit a copy of a Maine Driver’s License or other valid photo ID, a current utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck stub or other government document that shows the voter’s current name and address.
    3. There is a universal voter registration application online from the Election Assistance Commission. This application must be printed and mailed in; it cannot be completed online.
    4. You can request to mail you a voter registration form. Voter registration forms must be mailed to the secretary of state no later than 21 days before an election. Voters can register in person with their town/city clerk or at the polls up to and including election day.
    5. Mail-in registration must include a proof of residence and a copy of your ID.
  2. Can we implement online registration?
    1. This would almost certainly require a change to the law. Currently, someone must "appear" before the registrar to register, and there is an exception for a mailed-in, signed, form. It is possible this change to the law may fall within the expanded powers of the Governor. The primary challenge is ensuring that there is a signature on record for the voter at registration, to ensure that the signature on an absentee ballot matches. In some other states that have online registration, it is only available for people with a driver's license (and therefore a signature on file already). That might be a partial solution for Maine, though it would further marginalize people without a driver’s license. See more about online voter registration here.
  3. Has anything changed with the requirements for candidates or referendums to qualify for the ballot?
    1. Party candidates for the June primary had to qualify by March 16. That didn't change. Since the Governor signed an Executive Order to to move the primary date to July 14th, non-party candidates now have until July 1, 2020 to qualify for the November ballot. 
    2. The Maine GOP's people's veto of ranked choice voting in presidential elections will have a shorter window to collect signatures for the November ballot. The deadline is 90 days from the legislature’s final adjournment. That date is set in the Maine State Constitution and did not change with the Governor's proclamation. Statutory adjournment was set for April 15, but the legislature adjourned early on March 17. This moves the clock up to June 15 as the deadline for submitting signatures. Backers of the people's veto could have gathered signatures at the polls on June 9, but July 14 will be too late.

 

LEAGUE PROGRAMMING

  1. Will we have a voter guide this year?
    1. Yes, the LWVME Easy to Read Voter Guide will be more important than ever.
    2. Voters can access information all year round at Vote411.org/maine.
    3. We are currently planning a printed guide for June, but this may change. We will certainly have one for November.
    4. If you’d like to get involved with our voter guide, we are currently recruiting volunteers! Contact evan.tess@lwvme.org for more information.
  1.  What about our other programs?
    1. Our Neighbor to Neighbor canvass is impractical as currently designed. We are currently working to redirect our voter engagement efforts.
    2. In-person events and meetings have also been suspended.
    3. We are offering online webinars and other ways to connect with each other and reach activists and voters. See our calendar for scheduled trainings and webinars

 

NEWS

Voting Coalition Wants Mills To Act On Primary Election, Maine Public Radio, May 3, 2020

Maine Is Having Trouble Finding Poll Workers For The Upcoming Primary, Maine Public Radio, May 2, 2020

Maine Voting & Elections Coalition Files Petition to Governor, LWVME Press Release, May 1, 2020

Sen. King touts absentee ballots as safe, fair option for November election, Portland Press Herald, April 23, 2020.

Mills officially pushes back June elections to July 14, Bangor Daily News, April 10, 2020. 

Mills announces plan to move Maine’s June primary election to July, Maine Beacon, April 10, 2020.

Gov. Mills Postpones June Primary, LWVME Press Release, April 10, 2020.

Towns wait for direction from Mills on how or whether June 9 voting will happen, Bangor Daily News, April 7, 2020.

League of Women Voter of Maine Calls on Governor to Protect Elections, LWVME Press Release, April 6, 2020.

Our View: COVID-19 will change Maine Election Day traditions, Portland Press Herald, April 5, 2020.

 

LWVME WEBINARS

Corporate Contributions, May 20, 2020

Absentee Voting for a Safe Election, May 13, 2020 [TRANSCRIPT]

Slay the Dragon, May 6, 2020 

Why the National Popular Vote Matters, April 29, 2020

Protect Our Vote Virtual Town Hall, April 23, 2020

Federal Actions on Elections, April 22, 2020

State of Our Democracy in Maine, April 15, 2020

How Will COVID-19 Impact Our Elections, April 8, 2020

 

MORE RESOURCES

MIT Elections and COVID-19 Site 

Vote 411 Election Site 

Mailable Voter Registration Form 

Contact Information for Town Clerks

Ten Recommendations to Ensure a Healthy and Trustworthy 2020 Election

Expanding Ballot Access and Ensuring Emergency Election Preparedness