Vote by mail is a safe, convenient way to participate in July 14 election

It’s weird to have a statewide election in July.

Right now, though, there are lots of things that are weird, and at least for registered Maine voters, the July election is as easy as ordering from Amazon — maybe easier if you’re still trying to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer online.

Registered voters can go online and request an absentee ballot from the Office of the Secretary of State. Your ballot will be mailed to you when it’s ready.

The statewide election, originally scheduled for June 9, was moved to July 14 to help keep voters and poll workers safe and to lessen the risk posed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. That was smart.

Voting by mail means you can cast your ballot from the comfort and safety of your own home and mail it in when it’s convenient for you.

It’s an important election, too. Voters have some big choices to make.

There is a statewide primary to choose the Democratic nominee to face off against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in November. House Speaker Sara Gideon, Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman are seeking the nomination.

There’s a primary to pick the Republican nominee to challenge U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District that features Adrienne Bennett, Eric Brakey and Dale Crafts.

There are also a scattering of primaries in other races where voters can weigh in.

Plus there are two critical bond questions on the ballot: Question 1 would invest $15 million to expand access to high-speed internet, particularly in rural areas and Question 2 would invest $105 million in transportation projects. (Disclosure: I’m working to support a “yes” vote on Question 1.)

Voting by mail is safe and simple, and, at least in Maine, not controversial. We’ve been doing it for years without problems.

Once ballots are printed, they will be mailed to those registered voters who have requested them, usually about a month before the election. Then it’s as simple as making your choices and either mailing your ballot in or returning it to your town hall. All absentee ballots must be received at town hall by 8 p.m. on July 14.

To register to vote for the July 14 election, a person must be 18 years old by the general election, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Maine. Simply fill out a voter registration card — which are available at town halls, Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch offices and other government agencies.

For Maine residents who want to register to vote by mail or through a voter registration drive, the cut-off date is the close of business on the 21st day before the election.

But you can register in person to vote right up to and including on Election Day.

Election Day is one of my favorite civic events. When my kids were young, my wife and I would take them to the polls with us. I’ve always enjoyed shaking hands with the candidates outside and running into neighbors who I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.

The process of marking the ballot in a little booth and then sliding it into the scanner or ballot box is fun. The small talk with poll workers – how’s turnout, how are the crowds — and the good feeling of knowing that you have done your civic duty as a citizen are all part of the day.

I’ll miss the social aspects of Election Day, but this year my wife and I have both requested our absentee ballots. It took about five minutes for both of us.

For the last few months, a trip to the mailbox has been about as far as I’ve traveled from my house on most days. Now, I’ve got another reason to look forward to the trip — it’s the way I can make sure my voice is heard in the July 14 election.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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