Enhanced voting options available for voters


Published: 8/10/2020 2:56:17 PM

In recent weeks, registered voters in Massachusetts received the first of its kind mailing from the Secretary of the Commonwealth: a vote by mail application.

Last month, the Legislature passed a bill to protect voters’ health and safety while also expanding and safeguarding accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new law, every registered voter can choose to vote by mail, vote early in person or vote in person in the State Primary and General Election.

By law, the Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin was required to send vote by mail applications to all registered voters by July 15 for the Sept. 1 State Primary. The application includes pre-paid return postage. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, Aug. 26. You can expect another vote by mail application in your mailbox around the third week in September for the Nov. 3 General Election. This application will also include pre-paid return postage. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Voters can choose to return their ballot in the mail, in a secure dropbox, or in person. You can contact your local election office for the location of your secure drop-box and information on where to vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day. I have compiled a list of 1st Franklin District election offices at repblais.org/2020Elections.

For the State Primary, all ballots need to be returned to your local election office by 8 p.m. on Sept. 1 in order to be counted. For the General Election, ballots mailed must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov. 6 in order to be counted. If you think your ballot may not arrive in time to be counted, consider returning it by hand to your local election office.

If you did not receive an application or you lost the form, you can visit the Secretary’s website atvwww.sec.state.ma.us to complete an online application. Once your application is submitted, your city or town clerk will mail a ballot with pre-paid return postage.

For voters who choose to vote in person, polling locations will have new safety measures in place to protect your health. In collaboration with the state Department of Public Health, the Secretary of the Commonwealth will issue guidelines around the physical distancing of voters and election officers, face coverings, personal protective equipment, the use of sanitizers, and the sanitary use of marking pens. There will be seven days of in-person early voting for both the primary and General Elections to increase accessibility and maximize safety.

For the State Primary, in-person voting will be available from Saturday, Aug. 22 to Friday, Aug. 28. For the General Election, in-person voting will be available from Saturday, Oct. 17 to Friday, Oct. 30. Alternatively, voters can still cast their ballots in person on Election Day.

The legislation also enhances accessibility and equity. Along with additional options for voting, the bill is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and national standards to provide accessible voting options to everyone. Municipalities are required to evaluate and report any adverse impact a change to a polling location poses to accessibility on the basis of race, national origin, disability, income, or age in advance any changes being made. Such changes must be made at least 20 days prior to the election to provide sufficient notice to voters.

The collaborative process that got us to where we are today included input from public stakeholders, local election officials, legislators, Secretary Galvin, and Gov. Baker. Each recognized that expanding accessibility and protecting voter rights are of paramount importance to our democracy. Neither our right to participate nor our health and safety should be compromised as we cast our ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any concerns about voting in person, I urge you to complete your vote by mail application today.

For more information, the Secretary of the Commonwealth has posted a Frequently Asked Questions page at https://bit.ly/3gNniWh. You can also reach his office at 1-800-462-VOTEor elections@sec.state.ma.us. And as always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly if you have questions or concerns: natalie.blais@mahouse.gov or 413-362-9453.

Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, represents the 1st Franklin District.


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