Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has released a package of proposed legislative changes he said he believes will be necessary for the safe and orderly administration of elections this fall. With his proposal, Galvin seeks to expand existing voting by mail procedures so that any Massachusetts voter could choose to vote by mail in the Sept. 1 state primary and the Nov. 3 state election.
Galvin’s plan would also expand in person early voting for both the primary and the election. The plan calls for 18 days of early voting for the November election, including two weekends, as well as seven days of early voting ahead of the September primary.
“I want to make sure that any voter who wants to cast their ballot by mail is able to do so this fall, but it is also essential that we preserve in person voting as an option for those who need it,” Galvin said. “The best way to do that is to spread it out over as many days as possible, to avoid crowding in the polling places.”
While early voting by mail is currently allowed for November, current state law limits the availability of those mail-in ballots to a two week early voting period prior to the election. There is currently no option for voters to request a no-excuse mail-in ballot for the September primary. Galvin is asking the Legislature to allow election officials to mail early ballots to any voter who has requested one, as soon as the ballots are ready.
Other provisions in Galvin’s plan are meant to make it easier for voters to request a mail-in ballot. Under the proposal, voters would be able to submit their request for a mail-in ballot electronically. For those who wish to apply using a paper application, Galvin’s office plans to distribute applications across the state.
“My Elections Division will be working to make sure applications are distributed to all voters, through a variety of methods. We are also in discussions with the Post Office right now to determine the best way to ensure voters do not need to pay for postage to return their mail-in ballots,” Galvin continued.
The proposal also increases options for returning an early ballot, which right now can only be returned by mail or in person by the voter. Galvin’s plan would allow voters to return their ballots to an official drop box or ask a family member to deliver the ballot by hand.
Also included in the package are provisions for voters who are hospitalized or quarantined immediately before the election. Galvin’s office is proposing that voters admitted to a healthcare facility or forced to self-quarantine within one week of the election be allowed to designate someone to hand-deliver a ballot to them.
Galvin is encouraging the Legislature to act quickly on the proposal, as the printing of ballots for the state primary will begin immediately after the upcoming June 2 candidate filing deadline.
“We need to have our plan in place very soon, so that my office can order a sufficient number of mail-in ballot materials for voters, and so that voters can start getting those ballots,” Galvin said. “The more time our local election officials have to prepare, the more smoothly this election will run for everyone.”