Mass House Passes Voting Options Bill Due To Pandemic

FRAMINGHAM – Representatives Carmine Gentile, Jack Patrick Lewis, and Maria Robinson joined their House colleagues in passing legislation last week that will allow several oting options, including early voting by mail, in the midst of COVID-19.

An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19 aims to facilitate a number of options for voters confronting health risks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the provisions of the bill, voters can elect to vote by mail, submit an absentee ballot, vote early in-person, or vote on Election Day with public health safeguards in place.

An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19 now moves to the Senate.

“As Massachusetts works through the four-step plan for re-opening, the Legislature is actively planning for what may be our ‘new normal’ in a COVID-19 world,” said Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis (Framingham). “Safe elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and this legislation ensures public safety going into this fall’s elections.”

“This legislation will allow everyone to be able to vote safely from the privacy of their own home,” said Rep. Carmine Gentile (Sudbury), “or, if they choose to vote in person at the polls, they will also be able to cast their ballot with protections in place.”

“Having a safe option for voting in the midst of a pandemic is important, and I’m happy to see measures taken to both allow for voting by mail and to keep poll workers and people who choose to vote in person included,” said Rep. Maria Robinson (Framingham).

The bill to expand voting options in response to COVID-19 has the following provisions:

EARLY VOTING BY MAIL APPLICATION

  • Requires the Secretary of State to mail all registered voters an application to vote early by mail in advance of the primary and general elections (by July 15 for the primary and September 14 for the general);
  • Asks voters to apply at least seven days prior to the primary and general elections;
  • Allows for electronic signature and submission of applications;

EARLY VOTING BY MAIL

  • The city or town clerk will mail an early voting by mail ballot and envelope with return postage pre-paid to all voters who apply;
  • Allows voters to return their early voting by mail ballot in the mail, secure drop box, or in person;

ABSENTEE VOTING

  • Provides for absentee voting by any person taking precautions related to COVID-19;
  • Allows electronic signature and submission of absentee voting applications;

IN PERSON VOTING PUBLIC HEALTH SAFEGUARDS

  • Requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, to promulgate emergency regulations requiring public health safeguards for in-person voting, including social distancing of voters and election officers; face coverings and personal protective equipment; frequent use of sanitizers; and sanitary use of marking pens;

EARLY VOTING IN PERSON

  • Provides for 7 days of in person early voting in the primary—from Saturday, August 22 to Friday, August 28—including one weekend – and 14 days of in person early voting in the general—from Saturday, October 17 to Friday, October 30—including two weekends;

ELECTION DAY

  • Permits voters to still cast a ballot at the polls on election day;

LOCAL ELECTIONS

  • Provides for early voting by mail for any city or town elections held at the same time as the primary or general or on or before December 31, 2020.

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