LEWISTON — Tuesday was the first day that Lewiston City Hall opened its early-voting polling place. By the end of the day, 102 residents had voted by absentee ballot.
“It was definitely the highest number we had on our first day for the early-voting polling place,” said City Clerk Kathy Montejo, adding that Sunday’s presidential debate may have brought more voters out.
Lewiston opened 14 booths in the Council Chamber. Some booths have tables and chairs so voters can sit while filling out the ballot.
During the upcoming weeks leading to the Nov. 8 election, Montejo expects between 6,000 and 8,000 people will vote early, which could be a third of the city’s expected turnout of 15,000 to 18,000 voters.
People love the ease of early voting, she said. “We’ve had a lot of positive comments. They can find a parking place easier. It’s not as noisy, there are no long lines. It’s growing every election.”
Secretary of State Office spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski said absentee voting is available statewide in city and town halls. Across Maine, absentee voting has grown more popular. The state last week mailed out thousands of ballots to towns and cities. As of Tuesday, 1,950 had been returned.
This year is the longest time voters have to vote absentee — three-plus weeks.
Claire Breton said she and Roland Metayer of Lewiston voted early Tuesday because she’s having surgery a few days before the election. “I certainly didn’t want to miss it; it’s such a monumental event, especially this year,” Breton said.
Auburn started in-person absentee voting at Auburn Hall on Oct. 4, City Clerk Susan Clements-Dallaire said.
“It’s getting busy,” she said, adding that Auburn has issued more than 1,000 ballots and is processing more applications received in the mail. She estimated Auburn will have up to 3,000 early voters, or up to 20 percent.
Auburn’s absentee voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Oct. 29 and Nov. 3.
Lewiston’s hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday through Nov. 2, with extended hours on Nov. 3.