LD 1539
PUBLIC Law, Chapter 406

on - Session - 127th Maine Legislature
Bill Tracking, Additional Documents Chamber Status

An Act To Expand the Early Processing of Absentee Ballots

Emergency preamble. Whereas,  acts and resolves of the Legislature do not become effective until 90 days after adjournment unless enacted as emergencies; and

Whereas,  this legislation makes changes to improve the administration of absentee voting; and

Whereas,  required planning necessary for administration of absentee voting for the next general election must begin well before the election; and

Whereas,  in the judgment of the Legislature, these facts create an emergency within the meaning of the Constitution of Maine and require the following legislation as immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety; now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 21-A MRSA §760-B,  as amended by PL 2013, c. 457, §4, is further amended to read:

§ 760-B. Procedures when clerk processes absentee ballots prior to election day

Any municipality or jurisdiction that conducts its own elections may opt to process absentee ballots on the beginning on the 3rd day immediately prior to election day , except that processing on a Sunday is not permitted. The clerk shall use the following procedure when processing the absentee ballots during this time.

1. Time for processing.   In a municipality that has opted to process absentee ballots on the day immediately one or more of the days prior to election day authorized by this section, the municipal clerk or the clerk's designees may process absentee ballots at the times designated by the clerk, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., except that if an inspection is requested pursuant to subsection 3, processing may not begin until after the inspection period has concluded.
2. Notice of early processing.   The clerk must give notice of the municipality's intent to process absentee ballots prior to election day using the notice of election under section 621-A, stating the time days and times that the clerk intends to begin processing absentee ballots and the inspection period provided in subsection 3. At least 60 days before election day, the clerk shall provide a copy of the notice of election to the Secretary of State and the chairs of each political party of the municipality indicating that early processing of absentee ballots will occur. The notice to the political parties must be considered sufficient as long as it is mailed to the last address of each municipal chair that is known to the clerk. The notice to the Secretary of State may be delivered by mail or facsimile or as a scanned attachment to an e-mail address established by the Secretary of State. If the notice is not received by the Secretary of State by 5:00 p.m. on the 60th day before election day, the municipality may not process absentee ballots prior to election day.
3. Inspection of absentee envelopes before processing.   A member of the public may make a written request of the clerk to inspect absentee ballot applications and envelopes before they are processed if the request is made by 9:00 a.m. on the each day immediately that the clerk will process absentee ballots as specified on the notice of election prior to election day. The clerk shall make the absentee ballot applications and envelopes received by that time available for public inspection for one hour before the starting time specified in the notice of election for processing the absentee ballots. The clerk may immediately proceed to process the ballots after the one-hour inspection time has elapsed.
4. Processing and other procedures.   The clerk shall use the procedure described in this section when processing the absentee ballots during the designated times. Procedures for handling full ballot boxes, pollwatching and challenging ballots are conducted in the same manner as election day or as close as practicable.
5. Counting and results prohibited before the polls close.   The absentee ballots may not be counted, voter intent may not be determined and election results may not be obtained or released until after the polls have closed on election day , and all election day ballots have been cast and all absentee ballots have been processed. A municipality that uses a high-speed ballot tabulator and receives results at the completion of the ballot scanning may not view the results until after the polls close on election day.
6. Security of processed ballots and tabulating equipment.   At the conclusion of absentee ballot processing on the any day immediately prior to election day, the clerk shall ensure that the early processed absentee ballots are locked and sealed in the ballot box, automatic tabulating equipment ballot box or tamper-proof containers provided by the Secretary of State and secured in a vault or other locked secure location, until the voting resumes on election day or until the ballots are counted after the polls close. The Secretary of State shall publish uniform guidelines for securing ballots and other materials under this subsection.

Emergency clause. In view of the emergency cited in the preamble, this legislation takes effect when approved.

Effective 90 days following adjournment of the 127th Legislature, Second Regular Session, unless otherwise indicated.

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