Located more than 20 miles off the coast of Maine, matinicus islands are often one of the first communities in the state to report their official tally. Secretary and voter registration Eva Murray explains, because they have too few registered voters. “Out of 70 active voters, I have distributed 26 ballots,”; she said.
In addition to running the election, Murray also runs the solid waste program, runs an in-house bakery, works as a freelance writer and a certified pilot and EMT. She knows almost everyone on Matinicus, and almost everyone knows her. There seems to be a bit of confusion about how, logically, to send a ballot on the island. She predicts a “good number of voters” this year.
Although the ferry only runs about 30 times a year, it is possible to board and disembark by plane, and that’s how paper ballots will reach Rockland City Hall if there are any calls to count the votes. Otherwise, the islanders’ votes will be collected, tally and reported on Matinicus at the town office. The results were sent “by computer and fax,” Murray explained, “to the diplomatic office, to the election office, in Augusta, like any other town.” She takes great pride in the process and emphasizes that they are a small community, but they are committed to “doing the right thing”.
Prior to the global pandemic, “doing it right” often involved donuts at town offices, paper ballots and very short waiting times (if any) to color in bubbles. Things are a little different this year, both due to the implementation of ranked selective voting (allowing Maine voters to rank all state and federal candidates from most preferred to least most) and because of Covid-19.
Fortunately, Matinicus is virtually free of viruses, thanks to its remote location and small population. “They gave me a mask, I haven’t worn it yet, but when I go to vote, I will,” said island resident Bill Hoadley. “When I vote, this will be my first time wearing a mask.”
Choosing not to wear a mask isn’t as politicized in Matinicus as it is elsewhere in the state. Matinicus Isle Plantation, however, often skews Republicans, though you won’t know it when you walk around town. While neighborhoods across rural Maine have been taken over with red, white, and blue signs supporting political candidates (and some people of color don’t favor nobody). in mid-October, there was only one house on the island openly supporting the party they preferred.
According to residents, people here are more likely to talk about topics that immediately affect their remote communities – including and especially the weather – than the divided and stupid political world. “People don’t talk much about it,” said a seventh-generation Matinicus athlete, who was particularly passionate about the environmental issues affecting his commerce. “We know who Trump’s supporters are and those who don’t like me, we won’t change their opinion,” he said.
When you live on an island, it’s important to be able to get along with your neighbors. You never know when you might need their help. “Everyone here is definitely an individual or they won’t live here,” added Ann Mitchell, who works as a nurse, taxi driver, and (when needed) helps with pandas. “It’s hard, a lot of time, to get food or medicine here.” Murray points out that even the island’s young population is accustomed to joining whenever needed. “They learned a lot of practical skills,” she said. “The kids manage first aid, they dig the graves, they do whatever they need to do.”
Matinicus may seem like a weird, sweet little New England town, but that’s not the whole story. It is also not the wild, lawless pioneer village that some have made a name for. It is true that this community has no police force, and it is true that the island does not have any shops. But residents were quick to assure outsiders that, yes, they were part of the wider world and, yes, they were greatly influenced by what was going on in Washington.
“I think people feel very attached to the federal and state systems,” says Mitchell, who switched political parties for the first time this year in his adult life. “For 52 years, I was a party member,” she said. But even though she’s “sorry to have to,” Mitchell’s decision shows how all Americans, even those living on remote islands, are feeling about this election. . “We are here on an island surrounded by water, but we are still influenced by who makes the choice and by the constitution,” she explained. Worried about his vote, Mitchell voted early. “I feel very happy and relieved that my name and my ballot were on that ballot, and it was sealed, and I just said goodbye to it, and I hope it makes a difference farewell, ”she said.
While the buzz about voter fraud and election day threats has been heard across the country, Clayton Philbrook feels confident that his ballot will be voted and counted without a hitch. “There won’t be any Trump supporters here trying to intimidate the voters as possible on the mainland,” he said. “It takes a lot of things to intimidate me, and I’m not black or brown, so they probably won’t bother me.” Like most Matinicus residents, Philbrook appears to be a highly knowledgeable voter, interested in local and national politics. “I have a lot of time in the water thinking about these issues and I’ve read a lot online,” explained the athlete.
Philbrook’s votes, along with those of Mitchell and Hoadley and Murray, will be counted after polls conclude at 8 p.m. on November 3. The scene is usually a cozy setting. Like everywhere else, pollsters end their day with a single number, this island number in the dozen. “Even in a busy year, we have only counted 50 ballots,” Murray said. “We can break our own records this year.” But even with all that, there was still time for food. “Someone always brought us hot dinners, like moose meat in a ceramic pot or mac and homemade cheese,” she said.
And then, she added: “I can still make a donut, but everyone will have to bring it.”