Gov. Janet Mills has announced that Maine has rescheduled its June 9 primary to July 14 over concerns that in-person voting could further the spread of the coronavirus.
Mills said she was working with Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, local election officials and the state’s political parties on the plan to postpone the primary.
She said the state would try to reduce person-to-person contact by promoting absentee voting and perhaps using federal funds to put up protective barriers, such as the screens used in many retail stores, to protect voters and election officials in some polling places.
Dunlap said his office is prepared for the possibility that the primary might be absentee-ballot only if municipalities can’t staff polling places. He said his office might also be short-staffed because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Our principal goal here is to make sure there is no doubt about the integrity or outcomes of our elections,” Dunlap said.
Maine voters can already request an absentee ballot for the primary. Voters will have until two days before the new primary date to request and cast an absentee ballot, and they will be able to change their party registration until 15 days before the election.
Several key races, including selection of party nominees for Congress, will be on the primary ballot. As many as 46 primary races for the Legislature will also be decided.
Democrats will be selecting someone to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, and Republican voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will select a candidate to challenge incumbent Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston.
When the Legislature adjourned quickly in March, it passed emergency legislation that broadly expanded the powers of the governor’s office to respond to the pandemic, including the ability to postpone or change how the primary is conducted. The special legislation did not give Mills the authority to alter the general election in November.