Tuesday, November 8, is election day this year and this year it will be easier than ever to vote.

Maine residents can vote early, either at the municipal polling place or by absentee ballot, plus most midcoast towns will have expanded voting hours on election day.

Voting Times

A change in Maine law has expanded voting hours in many midcoast towns and made it easier to remember when the polls will be open. In any town with a population greater than 500 people, the voting place must be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voting Places

Local polling places can be looked up online at www.maine.gov/portal/government/edemocracy/lookup_voter_info. The site also provides information on how to contact municipal clerks and a link to a map to find the town office or city hall.

Registering to Vote

This year, residents can register up to and on election day, though that could change in the future, depending on the outcome of State Referendum Question 1.

Maine residents who are not yet registered voters must show proof of residency when they register to vote at their local town office or city hall, or when they sign up for a new driver's license. Those who want to register at the polls must bring a driver's license, tax bill, or other form of identification that provides evidence that they live in the town or voting district where they plan to vote.

Absentee Ballots

Any registered Maine voter can cast an absentee ballot for any reason instead of voting in person on election day.

The last day to request an absentee ballot for the November 8 election is November 3, except under the special circumstances outlined below. Absentee ballots can be submitted up until 8 p.m. on election day, November 8.

Absentee voting includes three different ways to vote: voting early in person at the municipal office, sending a ballot to the municipal office (or the Secretary of State's office) or having a third person submit the ballot under supervision of witnesses.

Special circumstances allow voters to request an absentee ballot later than Thursday, November 3, 2011. To do so, the voter must submit a special circumstances application, stating one of three allowable reasons for requesting a ballot after the deadline.

The three reasons are:

-An unexpected absence from the municipality during the entire time the polls are open on election day;

-A physical disability, or an incapacity or illness that makes the voter unable to leave home or a treatment facility; or

-An inability to travel to the polls because the voter is a resident of a coastal island ward or precinct.

The special circumstances application is available from the local municipal clerk or from the Secretary of State. The application must be signed by the voter.

Absentee - Early Voting in Person

A growing number of Mainers vote early at municipal offices to avoid the polls on election day.

Absentee ballots are available 30 to 45 days before the election at the municipal clerk's office. Residents who vote early in person at the clerk's office do not need to complete an absentee ballot application.

Absentee - Voting From a Distance

Residents who plan to vote from a distance must contact the municipal clerk in the town or city where they are registered to vote. Military staff and overseas voters should request an absentee ballot directly from the Secretary of State's office, Division of Elections.

An absentee ballot can be requested by telephone from the municipal clerk, electronically from the Secretary of State's office and in writing from either.

Ballots can be requested electronically using the Secretary of State's online absentee ballot request service. The approved online form and absentee ballot applications can be found at www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl.

To receive a ballot in the mail, an absentee ballot application must be filled out and sent in to the clerk. To be counted, voted absentee ballots must be returned to the municipal clerk by election day.

Absentee - Requesting a Ballot for a Third Party

A written request for a third person (someone other than the voter or the voter's immediate family member) must be submitted to the municipal clerk to get and hand-deliver an absentee ballot. The specific third person who will handle and deliver the ballot must be identified on the absentee application. Only this designated third person may handle the absentee ballot.

Ballots cast in this way must be witnessed by either a notary public, a municipal clerk, a clerk of courts, or two other witnesses.They must be returned to the municipal clerk by election day.