- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Democrats are outpacing Republicans when it comes to early voting in Maine - even in the 2nd Congressional District where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hopes to win at least one of Maine’s four electoral votes.

Numbers compiled by town clerks show Democrats ahead of Republicans in terms of absentee ballots cast in both the state’s congressional districts.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the disparity demonstrates greater enthusiasm by Democratic voters, said Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine.

In the 2nd District, 47 percent of absentee ballots have been submitted by Democrats, compared to 27 percent by Republicans, as of Monday. In the 1st District, Democrats accounted for 51 percent of absentee ballots, compared to 22 percent for Republicans.

It remains to be seen if the trend holds over the weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Thousands more absentee ballots have been requested but had not yet been submitted.

Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said the GOP is taking a targeted approach toward absentee ballots and that many Republicans want to vote in person.

“There are a large number of voters who are dead set on going in to vote on Election Day. They want to walk in, cast their ballots, and put it in the machine themselves. That’s the prevailing mindset of Republicans,” Savage said.

A spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign, meanwhile, said that the numbers indicate Mainers are ready to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s “vision to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

Maine doesn’t have early voting like other states, but allows voters to cast an absentee ballot, as long as they request the ballot by Nov. 3. Absentee ballots are obtained from town clerks; the marked ballots are then sealed in an envelope and signed, and then returned to the town hall. The envelopes are checked against the voter rolls and stowed away until Election Day, when they’re counted.

The number of ballots cast as of this week topped 34,000, which is 67 percent ahead of the pace from four years ago. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s top election official, said he believes the total number of votes cast absentee could top 230,000 by Election Day.

Dunlap said Maine could see a record number of votes because of the presidential race and high-profile referendums on legalizing marijuana, expanding background checks for guns, boosting the minimum wage, and establishing ranked-choice voting.

He’s projecting that about two-thirds of Maine’s 900,000 voting-age residents will cast tallies one way or the other, for a total of about 653,000 votes.

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