The City of Sanford is working hard to make sure the November 3 general election runs safely and smoothly. City Clerk Sue Cote met with the City Council’s Public Safety Subcommittee on Tuesday, August 25 and gave them an update on procedural changes and preparations.
Ms. Cote is requesting to have the polls open at 7:00 a.m. instead of the usual 8:00 a.m. This would allow more people to vote before they go to work and help keep lines shorter at the end of the day. Closing time is mandated by the state to be 8:00 p.m. Subcommittee members and City Manager Steven Buck all agreed that the extra hour in the morning makes sense.
Ms. Cote has over 2,000 pens on hand to be used for marking ballots. Voters may keep the pen they use; or return it to be sanitized for reuse. Voters may also bring their own pens from home.
The Douglas voting booths (the ones that are attached to each other) will have every other booth blocked off with caution tape. Curtains will be removed. The standalone booths will also be used, and set up 6 feet apart.
For this election, there will be three voting machines at each location – two for the state ballots, and one for the city ballots. Usually there are just two machines.
The 50 person indoor gathering limit will apply to the polling places.
There will be new rules for candidates to follow at the polls. Candidates will have to stand in a designated area outside, six feet apart. If they are approached by a voter, they must stay six feet away or wear a face covering. Hand shaking and other physical contact is strongly discouraged.
Anyone with a petition they want signed will also have to stay outdoors in a designated area. They must bring their own tables and chairs, and a canopy if desired. Ms. Cote has not been contacted yet by any petitioners.
Absentee voting was discussed at length. The City Clerk’s office will be open on two Saturday mornings in October, for voting and ballot drop-off, as well as regular operations. The office will also stay open until 7:00 p.m. on October 29, which is the last day to request an absentee ballot.
Ms. Cote is hoping to confirm an order within the next week, for a drop box for absentee ballots which will be installed behind City Hall, with a security camera. The state will pay 80% of the cost of the box, up to $1,500.
She also plans to have the City Council Chambers set up for in-person voting during the entire month of October, to keep that traffic out of the Clerk’s office.
Additional ballot clerks are needed. Ballots clerks must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter. Anyone interested in applying should contact the Clerk’s office at 324-9125. The position pays $12 per hour.
There are approximately 15,000 registered voters in Sanford and Springvale. As of this writing, the office has received approximately 1,500 requests for absentee ballots. Ballots will be ordered in September once all the nomination papers are in. Ms. Cote expects to be ordering many more absentee ballots than regular ballots.
There was discussion of producing public service announcements explaining election safety and the absentee voting process. Money from the Keep Maine Healthy grants may be used for this purpose.