Gov. Janet Mills is allowing external drop boxes for absentee ballots and letting clerks begin processing ballots earlier to deal with the anticipated heavy volume, her office said Thursday.

The executive order limits the number of people in polling places to 50 and requires physical distancing.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democratic process, and I take seriously our responsibility to ensure that every Maine person has the opportunity to cast their ballot and to do so in a way that protects their health and safety during this ongoing pandemic,” Mills said.

The deadline will be extended from Oct. 13 to Oct. 19 for voter registrations submitted by mail or third person. In-person voter registration can still continue right through Election Day.

The order also gives clerks the ability to start processing absentee ballots seven days ahead of an election, instead of four.

"This order will give Maine voters additional time to participate in the democratic process while also strengthening our municipal clerks’ ability to process the unprecedented influx of absentee ballots that we expect for this election,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said.

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