Descriptions of Elections

Description of the State Primary Election

Primary Elections determine each qualified party’s nomination of candidates for federal offices (other than President) and qualified State and County offices.  Party candidates who are elected at the Primary qualify to appear on the November General Election ballot.

Offices included in the 2020 Primary Election are United States Senator, Representative to Congress (both districts), all 35 State Senate districts, all 151 State Representative districts, and the following county offices, which vary depending on the county: Judge of Probate, Register of Probate, County Treasurer, Register of Deeds, Sheriff, District Attorney and County Commissioner. 

In order to qualify for the Primary Election ballot, party candidates must gather a specified number of signatures on primary nomination petitions between January 1, 2020 and March 16, 2020 and had to submit these petitions to the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections by 5:00 p.m. on March 16, 2020.  

Nonparty candidates gain access directly to the General Election ballot by gathering a specified number of signatures on nonparty nomination petitions between January 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020 and must submit these petitions to the Division of Elections by 5:00 pm on July 1, 2020. 

Please see the Candidate web page for more information.

Description of the General Election

The General Election is held nationally on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November.  In 2020, Maine voters will select their choice for President/Vice President (this process is called the “popular vote”), and elect one of Maine’s two United States Senators, Maine’s Representatives to Congress, members of the Maine Legislature, and certain county officers. 

Each party’s nomination for President/Vice President of the United States, party candidates who are nominated as a result of the June Primary Election, and unenrolled candidates will appear on the General Election ballot. 

The actual election of President/Vice President occurs through the Electoral College.  The “popular vote” is used to choose Maine’s 4 “electors”, who convene at what is called the “Electoral College” at the State House in December to cast their “electoral votes.” 

Description of the Referendum Election

Referendum Elections are held to provide Maine's citizens an opportunity to vote on People's Veto Referenda, Direct Initiatives of Legislation (i.e. Citizen Initiatives), Bond Issues, other referenda proposed by the Legislature, and Constitutional Amendments.  Referendum elections are an important part of the heritage of public participation in Maine.