AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine Gov. Janet Mills is allowing external drop boxes for absentee ballots and will let 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.

In other coronavirus-related news:


The state has suspended the license of the Big Moose Inn that hosted an Aug. 7 wedding reception associated with an outbreak of the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.

The number of cases has grown to 87 people who either attended the event in Millinocket or had contact with an attendee, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

The figure includes 19 cases at the York County Jail and nine at a rehabilitation center in Madison linked to the original event, he said.

The suspension of Big Moose's license was disclosed Thursday by Maine Health and Human Resources Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

It happened after a second site visit showed the initial problems cited by inspectors at the inn had not been addressed, she said. A message left at Big Moose Inn was not immediately returned.


Maine recorded another 25 cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 4,014, Shah said Thursday. The number of deaths was unchanged at 132.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.


Maine is continuing to tell people to get tested if they've been exposed to someone with the coronavirus regardless of whether symptoms are shown, Shah said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed a recommendation from its website that asymptomatic people seek testing following exposure to the virus. But Maine is not following that guidance, Shah said.

“The way that we have been doing this, the policy that we have adopted now for many months, is what is best for public health,” Shah said.


The University of Maine has suspended a student and others are being disciplined for violating rules aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

One student who was involved in a party was suspended, and about a half-dozen others have been referred to the student conduct office, Dean of Students Robert Dana told WABI-TV.

The university is asking all students sign a Black Bear Pact, signaling they have read and understood the expectations.

Dana said the university doesn't want “lackadaisical behavior” when it comes to compliance. “We expect more from our students, and I fully expect that’s what we’ll get,” he said.

Five students have tested positive for the coronavirus at the University of Maine. Also, one student apiece has tested positive at the University of Southern Maine and at the University of Maine School of Law.


Abbott Diagnostics announced Thursday it'll be hiring 1,200 people at its Westbrook lab following federal approval of a $5 diagnostic test for the coronavirus.

About 300 of those positions will be permanent jobs and the remainder will be temporary, the company said.

“Abbott is committed to developing important tools to help fight COVID-19. These jobs will not only make that possible, but also help Americans feel a little more confident about their health and lives,” Vildan Kehr, an Abbott official, said in a statement.

The FDA approved the test on Wednesday. It costs about $5 and produces results in about 15 minutes.