The following is a press release from Senate President Karen E. Spilka’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – The Massachusetts House of Representatives and state Senate on Thursday March 11, 2021, passed legislation to extend mail-in voting and early voting options for elections held through the end of June 2021.
The vote-by-mail provision was previously set to expire at the end of March 2021.
“As other states across our country work to disenfranchise their voters, I am proud Massachusetts is choosing to extend and enhance efforts to ensure every eligible resident can exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot in our local elections,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “With a record number of ballots casted in 2020, our successful vote-by-mail system increased access and protected our most vulnerable residents from putting their health at risk. I would like to thank Senators Rodrigues, Finegold, Lewis and Creem as well as Speaker Mariano and my colleagues in the House for their collaboration on this bill and look forward to this extension of voting options becoming law.”
The bill now advances to the Governor for consideration.
“During this pandemic, our vote-by-mail system has proved to be an accessible and secure tool for voters to exercise their right to vote without putting their health at risk,” said Speaker of the House Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “We are glad to have passed this extension that will allow cities and towns to continue offering vote by mail and other voting options for their upcoming elections. I thank my fellow members in the House, and Senate President Spilka and our state senators for their collaboration in getting this bill to the Governor’s desk. We must continue to explore options that encourage and empower voters to be active participants in our democratic process, and I look forward to working with Chairs Aaron Michlewitz and Daniel Ryan in legislation that will make vote by mail permanent in Massachusetts.”
“Ensuring access to the polls is a vital part of democracy, and I am happy that the Legislature has taken this important step to ensure upcoming local elections can move forward safely without disruption,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka and Senator Finegold for their leadership on this issue, and thank you to my colleagues in the Legislature for supporting equitable access to voting for all residents of the Commonwealth, including individuals with disabilities.”
“By passing this short-term extension of the vote by mail reforms the Legislature enacted last year, we are ensuring that cities and towns will be able to provide voters with safe and easy access to the ballot box this Spring,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “Later this session I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to make these reforms permanent, so that these measures will continue to safeguard our elections and guarantee that our democratic process will not be hampered by this or any future public health crisis.”
“This legislation will help ensure that residents can continue to vote safely and easily during the ongoing pandemic,” said Senator Barry R. Finegold (D-Andover), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. “Last year, the Legislature passed a common-sense, bipartisan bill to expand early voting and implement a secure vote-by-mail system for elections in 2020. These reforms protected public health, empowered voters, and helped generate record-breaking turnout. I am glad that the Legislature is temporarily extending mail-in voting through the end of June, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and local election officials on legislation to make vote-by-mail permanent.”
‘Over this past year, the COVID pandemic has caused us to take a closer look at, and improve upon, many of our society’s systems. Voting is one of those,” said Representative Daniel J. Ryan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws (D-Boston). “I applaud Chairman Michelwitz and my House and Senate colleagues for working swiftly to extend vote-by-mail and other safety precautions through this spring’s elections. I especially want to thank Speaker Mariano for his leadership on these ballot access measures and his bold commitment to work toward their permanency. I’m looking forward to a robust discussion on how to best move election legislation forward.’
“Voting reforms like mail-in voting and expanded early in-person voting have been critical to ensuring that all voters can safely and conveniently exercise their right to vote during the pandemic,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), lead Senate sponsor of the legislation. “I’m very grateful to my colleagues in both the House and Senate for the strong bipartisan support of this bill and look forward to working together to hopefully pass further legislation later this session to make these voting reforms permanent.”
“Vote by mail and early voting options have allowed us to conduct safe elections during the pandemic while also expanding voter participation,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “By extending these options today, this bill ensures that we can conduct safe, secure municipal elections this spring without limiting anyone’s access to the ballot box.”
The bill also allows municipalities to provide residents with the option to vote early in-person in these elections.
Additionally, the legislation requires local election officials to make reasonable efforts to grant accommodations for voters with disabilities who might have difficulty accessing a paper mail-in ballot and request an accommodation.
Furthermore, cities and towns can postpone municipal elections and caucuses scheduled before June 30, 2021 until August 1, 2021.